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Hotel Imperium: Poems
     

Hotel Imperium: Poems

by Rachel Loden, Shirley Streshinsky, Bin Ramke (Editor)
 

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Grounded in deep and thoughtful awareness, this complex collection of poems combines history, sexuality, pop culture, and political experience with edgy, wry, often absurd humor and an underlying penchant for the macabre. Rachel Loden employs both strict and innovative forms in poetry that explores the post-Cold War unease that follows a century of harrowing conflicts

Overview

Grounded in deep and thoughtful awareness, this complex collection of poems combines history, sexuality, pop culture, and political experience with edgy, wry, often absurd humor and an underlying penchant for the macabre. Rachel Loden employs both strict and innovative forms in poetry that explores the post-Cold War unease that follows a century of harrowing conflicts. These contradictory elements flower in poems drawn from the ethereal world of pop myths and fairy tales that simultaneously unfold a reality full of absence and mystery. Speaking as intimately of the fall of the Soviet Union as they do of the cinematic crimes and misdemeanors of Woody Allen or the redemptive passion of Little Richard, their tone ranges from the furious to the elegiac, with a comic edge that borrows as much from the gallows as it does from the Borscht Belt. As rich in rhyme, music, and literary allusion as it is in multifaceted meaning, Hotel Imperium presents a surprising blend of sophistication, playfulness, and haunting truths.

Editorial Reviews

Chicago Review

No one else brings such crystalline language to absurd situations. . . . Loden uses an almost Talmudic sampling of verse and commentary to narrate a true story of falsehood, lies, and omission. . . . Information and real people are skewed and skewered in Hotel Imperium like they are in Dante's Commedia.

Richard Howard

Do not be deceived: transactions with the Evil Empire recorded here are with a realm which will not alter the case, that intractable prosa mundi the Just Republic must contend with to the end: fools’ inferno, fools’ paradise. Our poet’s strategem has been to join rather than jilt her harassers, subverting from within. Daunting work, but someone had to do it—a good thing it’s this Loden woman, who has the strength of ten . . . syllables, never fear. We are inspirited.

Anselm Hollo

Steadily, with imaginative insight, humor, sarcasm, and irony, Rachel Loden looks at history. . . . In [Hotel Imperium's] corridors and rooms, Loden makes us confront many of the century’s still active ghosts. . . . Political in the very best and rarest sense of the word, Loden’s poems show us how to reimagine our (and others’) lives, with a vividness reminiscent of the "Commedia" . . . In sum: great, terrifying, insidiously beautiful work!

Susan Wheeler

Fierce humor has Hotel Imperium, as well as a heady run in which Nixon and brassieres stud the trail; the whole century bends its tragedy beneath Rachel Loden’s clear intelligence. These are brilliant, moving poems—poems to read for pure joy and chills over and over from here on out.

Maxine Chernoff

Rachel Loden is not merely fashionable or current. She’s a late-century muse of everything valuable in poetry—voice, shape, gesture. Add to that a wicked sense of humor and a disarmingly fresh and penetrating eye for social and political concerns. But her poems are not political in the simple sense of the word. Loden’s poetry guarantees complexity as it charts new territory with assurance. Hotel Imperium is the debut of a startingly original writer.

North American Review

She sends up late twentieth-century history, politics and canonical literature with a vengeance. . . . Loden is wickedly sarcastic, brilliantly ruthless—her poems are both deadly and a hoot.

Stephanie Strickland

Ablaze with moral passion, hushed in fairy-tale bliss, or chuckling up to terror, Rachel Loden’s tight poems of intricate subversion are gloriously musical, alive to each scintilla of sound and measure.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pop and politics haven't had their hats handed to them in this Popian a manner in ages. Reminiscent of the acute fantasias of Susan Wheeler and Elaine Equi, though temperamentally closer to Connie Deanovich, Loden's poems talk about what people are (or have been) talking about, but with barbs hilariously sharpened. Targets include most of the recent Republican presidents (mercifully, she exempts Ford), beauty culture, Woody Allen, Alan Greenspan, Dan Rather and insurance companies: "For an eye, not an eye./ For a tooth, forget it," she writes in "Memo from the Benefits Department." Poetry consumers will find special interest in language/system queries such as "DCEASE," a surprisingly moving meditation that begins "There are two Elvis Presleys in the Social Security Death Master File (DCEASE). The King's social security number is 409-52-2002." And language enthusiasts will approve of "Last W&T," a rearrangement, refrigerator-poetry-magnet style, of the words of Richard Nixon's will. The danger that cynicism will overtake the indignation that propels Loden is averted by the joy, bafflement and innocence of her poems that take icons as incidental examples, not front-and-center subjects. Take "The Little Richard Story": "On a day like this,/ without the music/ of appearances, creatures/ could land and you/ would not be able to explain/ anything to them, not/ the fearless industry/ of beavers, or why dust bunnies/ prefer the dark, not even/ how Little Richard/ himself came into being." Appeals to such other believers as Gerard Manley Hopkins or the psalmist work less well, but on the whole, Loden's first full collection marches smartly down the path of satire. (Dec.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Fierce humor has Hotel Imperium, as well as a heady run in which Nixon and brassieres stud the trail; the whole century bends its tragedy beneath Rachel Loden’s clear intelligence. These are brilliant, moving poems—poems to read for pure joy and chills over and over from here on out."--Susan Wheeler

"Rachel Loden is not merely fashionable or current. She’s a late-century muse of everything valuable in poetry—voice, shape, gesture. Add to that a wicked sense of humor and a disarmingly fresh and penetrating eye for social and political concerns. But her poems are not political in the simple sense of the word. Loden’s poetry guarantees complexity as it charts new territory with assurance. Hotel Imperium is the debut of a startingly original writer."--Maxine Chernoff

"Steadily, with imaginative insight, humor, sarcasm, and irony, Rachel Loden looks at history. . . . In [Hotel Imperium's] corridors and rooms, Loden makes us confront many of the century’s still active ghosts. . . . Political in the very best and rarest sense of the word, Loden’s poems show us how to reimagine our (and others’) lives, with a vividness reminiscent of the "Commedia" . . . In sum: great, terrifying, insidiously beautiful work!"--Anselm Hollo

"Do not be deceived: transactions with the Evil Empire recorded here are with a realm which will not alter the case, that intractable prosa mundi the Just Republic must contend with to the end: fools’ inferno, fools’ paradise. Our poet’s strategem has been to join rather than jilt her harassers, subverting from within. Daunting work, but someone had to do it—a good thing it’s this Loden woman, who has the strength of ten . . . syllables, never fear. We are inspirited."--Richard Howard

"Pop and politics haven't had their hats handed to them in this Popian a manner in ages. Reminiscent of the acute fantasias of Susan Wheeler and Elaine Equi, though temperamentally closer to Connie Deanovich, Loden's poems talk about what people are (or have been) talking about, but with barbs hilariously sharpened. . . . Loden's first full collection marches smartly down the path of satire."--Publishers Weekly

"Ablaze with moral passion, hushed in fairy-tale bliss, or chuckling up to terror, Rachel Loden’s tight poems of intricate subversion are gloriously musical, alive to each scintilla of sound and measure.”--Stephanie Strickland

"She sends up late twentieth-century history, politics and canonical literature with a vengeance. . . . Loden is wickedly sarcastic, brilliantly ruthless—her poems are both deadly and a hoot."--North American Review

"No one else brings such crystalline language to absurd situations. . . . Loden uses an almost Talmudic sampling of verse and commentary to narrate a true story of falsehood, lies, and omission. . . . Information and real people are skewed and skewered in Hotel Imperium like they are in Dante's Commedia."--Chicago Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780820321691
Publisher:
University of Georgia Press
Publication date:
12/01/1999
Series:
Contemporary Poetry Series
Pages:
80
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.26(d)

Read an Excerpt




Excerpt


THE KILLER INSTINCT


No one can quite

get over it. It is summer and revenge
lies sweetly in the fields
with her legs open,
                              her Bo Peep
petticoats in ribbons.
                               Et tu,
cutie? Not

far away, alternate worlds
queue up
to be auditioned,
                         chatting
despairingly among themselves,

but nobody's called back. Revenge,

our wretched darling, shakes the straw
out of her hair
                       and shines herself
into the reddest apple
on the highest bough.
                             Hanging tough
through hundreds of such afternoons,
worried into life
                            bylightning's play
on elemental soup, her stalwart heart
will rise again, slough off
loose brilliance
        ;       ;              like a firecracker,
and pack more melodies than Mozart.

Love, revenge, remaindering...
is this the end?
                 —The world pumps on,
with all its gently pitiless muzak.


MY EXCHANGE

"irrational exuberance"
    —ALAN GREENSPAN on the markets

Still, the path of the tango was not strewn
with roses. Five thousand years

might pass without a single dance, the dejecta
of great cities rolled out on a plain like dice

or jewels. And on my roof
the sleighbells of the gods, their tchotchkes

curled inside a broken jar at Qumran, painted
standing armies in the vaults of heaven.

*

See also: TIMELINESS/UNTIMELINESS.
Was it some corporate Sturmführer

saw a need for spreadsheets
in a town like this, with seven central bankers

to look at; the sweet sea air buffeting
the NASDAQ? Oh irrational exuberance,

you make me weak! Let me lie among
the fallen orders, vermilion petals at my feet.


THE DEATH OF CHECKERS


Grant that the old Adam in this Child may be so
buried, that the new man may be raised up in him.
—The Book of Common Prayer


This is the new socialist brain. This is the statue
of Dzerzhinsky falling over. This is my wife Pat.
This is an ode to the Bratsk Hydroelectric Project.
And I just want to say [abort, retry, fail ... ]

the kids, like all kids, love the little dog.
This/is/your/brain/speaking.... So I want you all
to stonewall it. Because gentlemen, this is my last
dance contest, last waltz with Leonid

around the Winter Palace. This is the Kommissar
of Moonbeams, this is the Soviet of Working People's
Reveries. This is the new man born out of Adam.
These are the new world order mysteries—oh,

Republican cloth coat. Oh gallery of Trotskyist
apostasies. Tricia and Julie do not weep for me—
I live and flourish in the smooth newt's tiny eyes,
my new brain fizzing with implanted memories.


A CATECHISM FOR IMAGINARY VIRGINS


Sex, food. That much is hard-wired
in the skull, and in the softer lobes

a tangled skein of flashing lights
announces random lusts

and loose despairs, like any preening
set of cocktail party characters.

No one I know has cooled those fevers
yet. Nor walks some pristine

neural pathway in a swirl
of freshly-driven snow, thinking

the new thoughts, cold as stars,
that only mint condition virgins do.

Oh, no. Stay as bewildered as you are.
Fall for the glimmering lure

of playing dead, of offering the god
these small propitiatory piles

of raveled hair and fingernails,
and other things that can't be said.


RECONSTRUCTED FACE


Surely this face—generic, blank—
betrays no terror. But her other face
is lost and floating on the river,
upturned like a lily in the air.

The police artist has slapped the flesh
back on her, wants us to know her,
makes her smile in that special way
a reconstructed woman smiles

after she's found without her face on
in a river, as though she tried
but failed to save us from the trouble
of her being there, our having to admit

that yes, we know her, smiling in the clay
the way we know the face of our own mother,
the reconstructed face that never
fooled us, built as crudely as it was

upon the scaffold of the other.


GENERAL DUDAYEV ENTERS THE WORLD


General Dzhahar Dudayev, president of the recently declared
independent republic of Chechen, was asked about the money
that has disappeared from the state treasury.

—reported in Helsingin Sanomat


In nature nothing disappears, or appears
from nowhere. All money works

for the good of the state. How it works
is a secret, a mystery of the state. You

may want to say that it has disappeared,
but nothing has gone anywhere. It is true

that there have been some deaths, at last
report, among disloyal officials

at the Ministry of Oil. It is even true
that we have arrested the entire parliament.

The Ministry of Law and Order has grown
to seventeen thousand men, all sworn

to defend the motherland. The Ferrari
Testarossas and the Rolls-Royce limousines

around the Palace may indeed arouse
your curiosity, but they prove nothing, only

that our sons, our Chechen people, learn
to live creatively in a changing world.


CLUELESS IN PARADISE


Kenneth, what is the frequency?
—query to Dan Rather from unidentified assailants


Sometimes, when you shake your head,
it is like snow settling
on the little village in the paperweight.

Other times, it's not—and that's why
God made the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
He can't always put a plaque up

on the spot. Sometimes even He
is forced to settle for a souvenir. Perhaps
Flopsy the Bunny isn't what you want,

and yet you won her at the fair. Like we won
a great victory against Iraq (applause).
Tie a yellow ribbon `round my eyes,

whirl me in circles, send me careering
toward the map. I love humanity. I'll stick
a pushpin into any random dot, and smile

endearingly. I'm a consultant. And nude
—I mean, naked—aggression, is what this thing
is all about, plus Bernie Shaw

quavering beneath a table when the smart
bombs start coming in, and Dan Rather
looking itchy in his sweater. Kenneth,

what is the frequency? Men on CNN
are weeping and surrendering, kneeling
while they kiss their captors' hands.


PREMILLENNIAL TRISTESSE


Nixon is slipping
in and out of consciousness. My father
sputtering in Canada, forty years
after the blacklist—

We hear there is this love that moves
the world, the sun and stars,

that makes the apple on the Kazakh bough
fall for a reason. My age, my beast,
my fingered rosary of disbelief ...

It seems that something red as love
is bleeding through the centuries,

that a reservoir of silky human grease
is oiling those celestial machines.
I don't want to see the zeroes turn

as on a clock about to wake us
from a murderous dream, confetti falling

helplessly into the fissured past.
I don't want them to unload the gurney
from the festooned ambulance:

the revelers in all their unforgiving
fury, the new patient in her bandages.


LINGERIE ADS IN THE SIXTIES


She is not there, except her body
is the specter in her Living

Underwear. She is ether,
air. See how she struts

her stuff, unsuckled nipples
pressing up against the lacy gauze

that seems to animate
pure lust. Liz Taylor

and her honeymooning breasts
lie out with Eddie on a beach

in France, but do we care
about these fleshpots

of the idle rich? Their tongues
are dust. A cleavage opens

between what we crave
and what we (bluntly)

are. Which is, perhaps, to say
that our unsullied heroine

is just where we would
want her, out of touch,

the eighteen-hour support she
promised but a ruse. Recall,

Madonna's still
a glint of silver

in her father's eye. Our girl
is not material. Ours

is a wind, a slitted
sheath, a lie.


DCEASE


There are two Elvis Presleys in the Social Security Death Master
File (DCEASE). The King's social security number is 409-52-2002. His
death benefits zip code is 38116, a.k.a. Memphis, TN (so little Lisa
Marie won't be forced to sell matchsticks on Elvis Presley Boulevard
in that city, or marry Michael Jackson for anything but Love). EP #1
was born 1/8/35 and died 8/00/77. No matter how many mourners
come to Graceland on August 16, the Social Security Death Master
File will remain benignly ignorant and democratic. It will always record
that EP #1 died on the 00 day of the month, just like everybody else.


Just like his namesake, Elvis Presley #2. Who was this guy? We can
confabulate something of his mother's state of mind from his date
of birth, 10/24/57, after EP #1 left for Hollywood but before he went
into the army. Other than that all we know is that 425-11-0453 died
4/00/87, not quite thirty, in Nettleton, MS. No death benefits zip
code is listed. Ten years after EP #1 was buried, EP #2 apparently
died without heirs.


I am stumbling around in the electronic graveyard for another reason,
actually. I am looking for a missing uncle, my grandfather's
first son from a marriage he wished forgotten. The only picture I
have of him is photocopied from a book in the Newberry Library in
Chicago. I have the same book at home, but the page with my uncle's
photograph is torn out, missing.


I can't find him, though, under any of his six possible names. I do
kick over another stone, and immediately wish I hadn't: the very
daft and ravishing Christina Montemora, born 12/12/48, died
11/00/87, zip code of last residence 12401. Somehow I did know that
I would find you, obvious Ophelia of my derelict years, though still
hoping that this search would bring up NO DOCUMENTS. Your name,
the few clues you leave behind, float like a reproach in the amber-colored
letters on the black screen.

Meet the Author

Rachel Loden's poems have appeared in the Antioch Review, Boulevard, Chelsea, New American Writing, Paris Review, and many other journals. She is the author of The Last Campaign, a prize-winning chapbook, and her work is included in The Best American Poetry 1995. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

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