||July 31, 205
Poems You Gotta Read
Next on my list of favorites is a writer local to St. Louis. Fierce Consent and Other Poems by Catherine Rankovic (WingSpan Press) is fierce, funny, quirky, and individual. Reading her poems, you walk, jerk-step, through her life and (if you're a writer too) your own. Her poems are not contained easily, and many reach out and grab the reader either through direct address (to the "Reader") or through a no-holds-barred wrestling match in which language and destiny battle it out. (Rest assured, language comes out the winner.)
How many writers will feel themselves caught in the heat-waves of this encounter:
...She went to hear a poet, and afterward went
up to him, said she wrote poetry, too, O
fatal youthful idiocy.
He'd nothing to say to a female
trembling with destiny, underage
and looked it, but "Run along, little girl."
God's good; she never heard nor read his name again.
God, interestingly, makes several appearances in these poems. He's one of the most interesting stage characters yet:
When two people love each other,
God rejoices, and settles back.
This is fun,
this is the kind of thing He works for.
He calls for beer and popcorn,
has tissues there for the tender scene,
cheers for the one who's wrong in the argument,
is amazed what they've made chocolate mean,
and only in their bitterness
or resignation suggests He's there,
but He can never have a kiss, His mom
never made Him wear idiot mittens,
He has no grandfather; His exquisitest
roses stay unboxed exactly where they are.
Rankovic's reach is wide and probing, and crushingly close to the bone when she looks closely at the life around her. Here's this one, witnessing a crowd leaving a bus:
These are God's people also, spilling from the bus,
their pink polyester clothing edged
with dirt as with rust, and bow-legged, bow-backed,
permed unprettily, at home a skirted sink
serving as a vanity, the white-trash hordes
of upstate and outstate as I'm white trash from Wisconsin.
Their hunger, if not literal, is for a crude,
accessible beauty, the protractor's
French curve, the velvet painting, gold-
toned base metals, a caesura in the pain of living ...
My favorite poem, and one that, after the preceding self-mocking fandangoes and delicious belly dances echoing the tone and language of everyone from Berryman to e.e. cummings, succeeds in bringing me to my knees, is The Shadow. It's appropriately placed as the penultimate poem, uncovering a hard-won understanding of the thin and temporary -- and mocking -- victory of the artist's "fierce consent" to achieve something in this world. In this poem, Rankovic knows her shadow well -- but not quite as well as it knows her:
...I am cobalt blue; gray in sunlight;
no one else when knelt to
kneels to you. I am closer than anyone on your pillow
and always you lay your cheek on mine....
Assigned to you, to dog you
with what your body does, to double your crimes, to lie about your figure,
to flatter you and to counterbalance radiance...
These poems are tender, fierce, courageous and well-honed, alternately mad as hell and funny as hell. If this is where poetry is going, we may be ok after all.
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Reader Reviews for "Fierce Consent and Other Poems"
|Reviewed by Linda Newton Perry
|I love poetry. But I wonder if it doesn't require us to say "too" much. I love the "do what you've always done and get what you've always got" or such. I'm lazy this morning so sorry the words aren't exact. Busy day today and need to get some work in on the new novel.
Happy writing. Linda