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Rose delves into the world of myth, using the stories of Daphne and Peneus, Shamhat and Enkidu and Grendel's mother to create new allegories for our times. Her poems also explore the aftereffects of ...
Rose delves into the world of myth, using the stories of Daphne and Peneus, Shamhat and Enkidu and Grendel's mother to create new allegories for our times. Her poems also explore the aftereffects of suicide on those left behind, the truths of lesbian motherhood and the exquisite splendour of the natural world. Thus, even as she celebrates the cherry trees that ". . . create a spectacle, tossing their wet confetti/ at the window. A child's hair falls out/ on her pillow. Blood pools under the skin of the sky," she holds always the synchronous reality of beauty and pain, death and birth, love and loss, at the heart of her poetry. This hard-won knowledge makes her world and her words unforgettable.
Winner of the 2013 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry (Triangle Awards)
Posted February 2, 2013
I read Song & Spectacle for months because I just could not barrel through it. Each poem is like a response from the oracle you travel to once a year. You need time to digest it. Or. Each poem is like a gorgeous candy version of a Fabergé egg. Only a barbarian would gobble them down one after the other. This may not be the case for other readers, but it is for me. I have never met Rachel Rose, but I feel that our writer souls have a kinship. I call it being in the same tribe as a particular muse. I hope that we are.
We need poets like Rose because we need someone to take banal, everyday topics like "how do you get over a childhood trauma?" and spin them into healing, sinuous gold, as in "Mystery," which begins, "Not what was done to you, girl/but how you survived it" and near the conclusion, allows, "You let what happened once/become a legend, a long time ago." Anyone reading this review might cry out, "How?" but you won't have that question if you ramble through her poems, or if, like me, you take them sparingly, like medicine, or hits of heady rapture.
Rose takes on other topics, capturing the mirror-neuroned adrenaline rush of a mob, free of glorification or judgment, just notices it so that we can get closer to understanding it, recognize it, be conscious enough to resist it without disowning it. In a way, that's an ongoing theme of the book, engaging with the disowned so that we can be less unconscious around it. When we are less unconscious around disowned topics, we are more conscious in general--every single sense sings, everything can be seen more gloriously.
If you have ever taken a walk through a garden, have had parents, or been a parent, have been sick, or well, or lost, or loved, there is something here for you.
When I read Rose's poems, I begin seeing the power of words set as precisely and thoughtfully as gems, with plangent imagery, nuanced timpani. But not in ornate precious metal settings. I see the gems set in strands of seaweed, crooks of moss. She amplifies, and reorients the way I think about everything around me and inside me, and I can only absorb a bit at a time, as I want it to endure.