Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dorothea Lasky, Black Life


When he and I are together, it just feels like love
And when we are talking and laughing together
It feels like love
And when we are hugging and going places together
It just feels like love, it feels like love
And his eyes on me and the way he looks
And what he says and the way I feel
And the things he does and the feelings I get
And the songs that play and my mind a racing
And the Spring racing before us and the sun and moon
And the low light of the evening
With the dark trees silhouetted and the birds aflame
It just feels like love
It really does
I don’t know
I must have said it all wrong

Oh, the sentences, the odd narratives by Dorothea Lasky that make up her second poetry collection, Black Life (Wave Books, 2010). I admire her performative confidence, the arms of her poems calling look, look. Lasky is a poet of sentences, of gestures, both grand and small, and many times concurrently, even contradictory, but rarely in opposition. Lasky is the author of grand gestures, open-heart narratives and a sometimes too-wise, nearly naïve narrator with childlike cruelty, writing “I’m not weird, like death / I am a turquoise woman who is gentle” (“YELLOWBIRD”), “But likeable in their strangeness / To thank a stranger is strange but I do so anyway / Because he is a child / Because that is what they think of me” (“THANK YOU TO JASON M. HELMS”) or her “POEM TO MY EX-HUSBAND,” that includes:

Dear husband, I miss you so much
Strange men who write bad poems
Tell me I disrupt their wives
I don’t even think they have a brain, let alone a dick
I would disturb nothing about them
If I ran into them on the train I wouldn’t even notice
How bland their jokes and voice

For those waiting for a follow-up to her magnificent first collection, AWE (Wave, 2007); who else do you know but Lasky has written a poem about their earlier work?


Have you ever read a book called AWE?
I have. I wrote it. That’s my book.
I wrote that book. I wrote that one.
Some people read it. They said,
We will make your book.
I said, Really? I love you.
They said, We love you, too.
I said, Good then
I will love you forever.
They said, Great! And looked scared.
Some people I love
Don’t love me
Others love me
That’s good
When you sit in a landscape of snow
And you’re a bird, that’s Awe
When you look over a big green field
And the dead soldiers lie all around you, that’s Love
That’s Love and Awe
Say it
That’s Love and Awe.
There is nothing better.
Or if there is
Then I don’t care

Lasky’s deceptively straight lines don’t mean straight narratives, and I appreciate her odd turns of phrase, her odd sense of humour (or, being American, humor). Shouldn’t the strength of any work come out of its unexpected places?

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