The last five poems in this book I like. They stand as fine
lyrics, calm, collected, deft, striking, moving. The last lines of the
book--from "Satan at Length" --I come in/handy, without
meaning/much, like a happily-ever-after, / or a belch of trust." Wry,
witty, sure. Most of all they are free of the effort to invent new mythic
narrative that shapes the earlier two-thirds of the book.
In those poems, Szporluk tries way too hard to create a new mythos and to
use it to handle material that is shrill, painful, nasty, mean, ugly and, one
feels, or I felt, anyway, unresolved, not fully transmuted into either myth
or poetry or even memory. We're not sure throughout if we are meant to feel
the emotions of powerful pattern-tales--rape, family romance, domestic
violence, you know, all the old stuff of those ancient and well-shaped and
worn stories. Or if we are also meant to feel the
violence of real memory, real pain from this speaker's life, memory that is
still too raw to touch?
All my little
suck his own
down to a
hummed a bar,
fanned the flames
just a john
stuck in time,
cock in palm,
I was pet
like a dog
in a dark
. . . . .
a crow, it
seems, to eat,
it seems, eat
a prick or
two, to make
. . . .
fear is its
own safe crowd, just let it
fart, shit is the one straight
what it takes, old mouth,
shit that can
sing a brick house to its feet,
wing the dead
breeze, bring it back
with a load of its cheep---
eat shit and
shit green and keep quiet.
Fierce stuff. It seems. But it's not really. It's a form of fakery, of hiding
behind dirty words for the sake of hiding. I wish Szporluk could really have
followed her own advice here and really let us know what was bothering her
and then really let out the anger and rage she tried to costume in a
"new mythos." The poems are so tight, stiff, cryptic, clever
without being very bright, that it feels like we've picked up torn-up scraps
of old feminist agitprop.
For contrast, listen again to Cynthia Huntington in "Curse Two: The
Naming," sending the woman who stole her husband to eternal damnation:
Katherine, whose nails dig blood.
I'm going to
call her pinch-cunt, pickle-lip
shit-smear, goat's-meat breath.
I want to
throw stones at her mother's corpse,
children to name-change foster homes.
May the coat
she is wearing burst into flames
and boil the
flesh blistering off her bones.
May she be
refused in both heaven and hell
the earth forever without rest,
ghost clinging to the rocks and trees.
It is not at all fair to ask one poet to "be more like" another
poet. I want Szporluk to be more
like the last five poems in her book. "Make up a new myth" might be
an easy assignment to give oneself.
Neither play nor purpose alone, though, are guarantees. It has never
been that easy to challenge the gods.
© Robert Garlitz