Louise in Loveby Mary Jo Bang
In this stunning new collection of poems, Mary Jo Bang jettisons the reader into the dreamlike world of Louise, a woman in love. With language delicate, smooth, and wryly funny, Louise is on a voyage without destination, traveling with a cast of enigmatic others, including her lover, Ham. Louise is as musical as she is mysterious and the reader is invited to listen. In her world, anything goes, provided it is breathtaking. Bang, whose first collection was the prize-winning Apology for Want, both parodies and pays homage to the lyric tradition, borrowing its lush music and dramatic structure to give new voice to the old concerns of the late Romantic poets. Louise in Love is a dramatic postmodern verse-novel with an eloquent free-floating narration. The poems, rife with literary allusion, take journeys to distant lands. And, like anyone on a voyage without a destination, they are endlessly questioning of the enigmatic world around them.
- Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
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Read an Excerpt
The crimped beige of a book, turned-down corner.
The way an eclipse begins with the moon
denting the sun's liquid disk, taking a first bit
then more and more and. Leaving a regal rim, a dim
spared portion, a shiver. How cold she was
as the cloud covered the cuckoo-land,
birds batting the tree fringe. Fitful caprice.
Foolish, yes, they were, those birds, but clever too.
A nostrum of patterning rain had fallen
beforehand ceding the hibiscus buds bundled
and in disarray. In the news p. Nostradamic foretelling
of retinal damage written in novelese.
Wasn't the skeptic invented to nourish an interest in science?
Yes. The puma swallows the sun, only to spit it back out.
Diaphragmatic heaving. Base emetic act.
The puky little sun glowing to a glare. Puissance.
One's own right hand teaching one to look, to see, to leap
upon some notional premise.
Louise placed the next-to-night glasses on the table.
It is, she said, so over. But it wasn't.
Specters they would be
rooted eighty-two years in the same spot waiting
for another and then an offhand remark and one by one
(which is the way death takes us, he said)
they took their shadows
and went out of the garden and into the house.
SHE COULDN'T SING AT ALL, AT ALL
Louise said. No subtle cadences capturing birdnote
nor the melancholic "My Love
Is in a Light Attire." She could speak well enough
but to sing was to vivisect theear's dear pleasure desired.
Ham suggested canasta
or a hike to a hillock. The other reminded
no night-over campingLydia was soundly allergic to that.
Charles Gordon proposed
a boat ride to a big, big lake and a stroll
in the Parc d'Avenir. They heard an April angelus tolling its sixes,
a sure sign that the winter demon was down.
It was now a matter of waiting
for the haughty naughty beguilement of warmth.
They were standing on the balcony when
Louise was tossed not a rose or two with flayed edges
but an entire bouquet of hibiscus (a horde of bishops
huddling at the heart of each). Below them, a boy sweeping
sheep, sheep, sheeplooked up
and souffled Lydia a kiss. Oh, it would be a good day, wontn't it?
Life flung riverward and on and on
the baby boat floating, spinning in the hope current,
someone singing "Sometimes a bun, sometimes only a
THE DOG BARK
Louise peered into the corner of the cabinet
of fossilized delights: mandragon manikin, a dried mermaid,
assorted dog barks of crass appetites.
It was six and dark early. Don't forget numbers, Ham said,
are only examples: one and two with their sterile marriage,
three with its tattooed face. That year the gifts were lustrous:
a bear with the head of a horse, small nipples, flowers
in its ears. Louise said, Who doesn't love
the sound of scissor snips and free-for-all terms of endearment?
The dog, they named Lucky
To Be Alive, and refused to let it be altered.
Gorgeous that pillar, that postboth spiraled
with lashes of laurel. And between the two, four
couples fashioned past fumble.
The party wanted the night
sand to swallow their prints so they drove to the beach.
Back home, the filament blinked in the lamp
by which Louise sat reading a book about sleep.
Six knobs controlled the night but the day,
the day, she read, was rudderless,
an eggbreak knowing no bounds but becoming
an edgeless eye fluttering open at the sound of a siren,
a peony shakeneach petal a shower of instant truths.
Wake up. One wanted to hear
the skya river turned sidewise.
The wrist's tiny veinlets sunk
while gravity's gooseherd gathered the minion
capillaries. Wake up, wake up. The filament flickered again,
a forecast for certain. Sunrise would be
riddled with sound. At irregular intervals, rain.
The same letters one day would read
Charlotte; Charcot, the next; and then
A grid over every window erased by the lack
In the everworld of art, even the lettuces' red leaves
stayed suspended between dissolves. Eye and idea, a rope
at the waist. She was held
not by the text, but by the pretty pictures.
THE STAR'S WHOLE SECRET
Did she drink tea? Yes, please. And after,
the halo of a glass gone.
A taxi appeared out of elsewhere.
Five constellations, Louise said,
but only two bright stars among them. Soon, Ham said,
the whale will reach the knot of the fisherman's net;
the moon will have its face in the water.
And we'll all feel the fury of having been used
up in maelstrom and splendor.
Mother did say, Louise said, try to be popular,
pretty, and charming. Try to make others
feel clever. Without fear, what are we?
the other asked. The will, said Louise. The mill moth
and the lavish wick, breathless in the remnant
of a fire.
KISS, KISS, SAID LOUISE,
BY WAY OF A PAY PHONE
To the other who'd been left behind.
The city was unlucky in cloudy and chance of.
Routing the enemy, following a route.
What does it mean, Mary Louise,
that the mall in Midcreek will open in May?
They were getting away
to nature, conveyance as a form of diffidence.
Every avenue, said Ham, still ends at perception.
There is a point, said Louise, when one will act or won't
even know what she's missed.
She was wearing a wig and suit of blue serge
and looked somewhat like that section
of a symphony written in the alphabet soup
of C and B-neath. The road was a ribbon
on the bright canyon bed. Clever twin, said Louise,
to those who know how to follow
a scheme that avoids the end of the senses
before there can be a begun. She saw: a blue car leaving
at three; a blue car returning at four; an odd-looking man
leaning against an ornamental Japanese pine.
They stopped at the house on the top of the hill,
lit like a candle-house cake. I hope, Ham said,
there's a fire station deep in this forest.
Forest? What forest? she said.
Don't you see
it's a fantastic sea where nothing but nothing can save us.
THE DIARY OF A LOST GIRL
Four diphtheria deaths, then fire, now five named lakes
with tranquil looks. Yet rampantly mad.
A lunatic shriek from a ruffian
child. One oar wrestled a mob of shore fringe, another,
the wet underbirth. And madness,
was it afflicted by demons? Or stricken of God? Or vision,
thrown on an empty mirror, and there you were?
Later, upstairsthe lakes packed away
in pearly cases, the coppery spin of a high skyward
arrayed against a leaded windowthe chiasmic
question recurred. She recalled shy little lessons
from a girl named Renee on the unattainable freedoms
of the flesh. In the dining room, they would crumple
over the table like paper angels
if anyone raised an eyebrow.
Otherwise, they leaned against scenerylooking down
at their Bonniedale shoes
as if they were in love with nothing else.
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