5.10.2009

Rachel Loden
Dick of the Dead
Ahsahta, 2009

Rachel offered the .pdf to me (before I had corresponded with her at all, she was author of Hotel Imperium, and I reviewed it for The Chicago Review -- the only work by me that's appeared there, review or otherwise, alas), mostly BECAUSE I am in a good position to do a dual review. I know the late Rochelle Ratner would recuse me, though.

So, I got the .pdf from Janet.

If you know me at all, you know that I would love to purchase something, anything, for and with or by, any woman, but particularly a female poet, who titles anything DICK OF THE DEAD. I still remember the BOOK OF LISTS -- my dad had cut out the racy section, and I was crazy for lists and trivia so I went to the library to read the weird penis lists and trivia, like Josephine keeping Napolean's shrived penis that looked like a seahorse in a jar. I.e., this should be called DICKS OF DEAD LEADERS. Maybe. Also, remember I have just finished reading more about Stalin (Josip! Osip! Djagashvili!) than I should have. And I published a brilliant book called Immediate Empire, and the initial cover drafts were based on the little red book. I digress.

Here I am, wanting to give Rachel Loden something more than blandishments and having a high regard for her work. Plus I have read two chapbooks, including SNOWGLOBE since that was published, and I did hunt down some early poems.

The zen archer of HI can obviously not repeat poking the target's eye so easily, with universal commendation, on arrow #2. For one, how many Nixon poetry books by one author can the American public bear? How has the icy Nixonian tone been rocked by Frost/Nixon -- i.e., Frost and Nixon for people who don't remember David Frost and Richard Nixon? (Where are the puns on Red China for the white house -- (nancy) reagan's china was red?)? Oooh, that Nixonian rag.

Because Rachel Loden's Augustinian, canonical frames of form and allusion remains. That too, is an important avenue to review, since in the intervening decade, from the time Loden proved she can do all that, that sort of poem has been less in evidence (although her publisher and several of her publisher's publishees are writing and publishing it -- and it would astonish many graduate students to know, Douglas Messerli still does as well).

The book begins with an allusion to The Pumpkin Papers in a quote from J. Edgar Hoover. Through Loden I know that Whittaker Chambers wrote poetry.

A comparison of Loden's version of Robert Duncan's "Often I am Permitted to Return to a Meadow" with the original.

First, the original:

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
by Robert Duncan

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

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