Monday, January 18, 2010

T'was the Night Before Winter Semester

and holed in upstairs
was one lazy professorina
with one thousand dresses
and nothing to wear....

Anyway, I never claimed to be a formalist and this post is not about me but about one of my favorite and most-admired writers: Laura Kasischke. Seven novels, seven books of poetry, most of which I own, some of which I had to hunt down. For the first obvious reason, I am in admiration: poetry and prose and major respect for both. The second reason requires the reading that a true fan does to see that all that respect is earned. I have read most of the novels and all of the poetry I can find. She has restraint in her poetry with a careful eye toward the lyric. In her prose, she is able to weave in just enough poetic-chops to give the novels, plot-strong as they are, that thing that potboilers or mainstream supermarket paperbacks too often lack: art, an artfulness. And yet, like the best classics, she gives the sense that story is always being considered, and that the storyline should pull a reader in and keep tugging. Because I am reading, at any given point, so many books, it is not good to begin another. I try to limit the novels I am picking at to two, maybe some short stories for the quickie, and poems because they're like air to me. A constant.

A new novel in the house must sit nicely, must wait its turn, but Kasischke's books don't do that. They nag and insist, the linger and seduce.

To see how both narrative and the tiny detail that a poem licks its lips over come together so well in her work, check out this poem from Gardening in the Dark:

Younger Woman Shopping for a Blouse
She holds it up to see it better,
trying to imagine ...

Where did that last decade go?
I remember

driving fast past
the sloppy needlepoint
of lilacs in the breeze,
dancing in a pine-paneled bar.
I remember

sending a postcard to a man
I’d read about in the paper.
He’d survived an ordeal, but what

was it, and who are you? All

this honey all over my hands.
Where did it come from, and what
if a bear crosses my path now?
What if the bees find me?

She cannot imagine herself
in that, and puts it back.



Cynthia King said...


a-smk said...

Speaking of: happy. I hope you are, too, Chickiest. I can't wait for our Boston Review!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!