13 December 2014

Undark: to have lived is not enough

I was first introduced to the work of Sandy Pool when we read together at The Edmonton Poetry Festival. She gave an incredible performance and was also completely charming. I finally read it recently, devouring it in two evenings.

It's an accomplished book, rich with stunning images and voices. It's subtitled "An Oratorio" and has a list of Dramatis Personae, which includes Sappho, Undark ("a propaganda radio personality) and the Radium Women (on whom Undark centres).

There's a mix of styles for each voice, although I had to read the dates for Sappho and Hatshepsut to keep them clear. It's all so cleverly done, but this book is more than just clever, it's political and human and incredibly moving.

When I started the book, I thought that it would make a great pairing with Marie Clements' Burning Vision and Veronique Greenwood's "My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And it Killed Her." in the New York Times for my imaginary syllabus. The syllabus would have to be flushed out some more, but I haven't read much that I could add.

Then, I came to Pool's poem "Nox, New Jersey, 1998"
are speaking. To have lived

is not enough. They have to
reverberate like elbows

poking through undergrowth.
The rate of pulses rising

to terminal buzz. Women
like whale music, singing

under the newly mowed lawn:
lick tick lick tick lick tick.

To be dead is not enough.
The Dopler shift of history

buries them deeper.Geiger
counter clicks into being.

and it reminded me of my own Glossolalia, and countless other stories of silent/silenced women. So many contemporary women poets are drawn to these historical women, trying to give voice to those who no longer can voice their own stories. Is it because we worry about our own fates? Perhaps subconsciously, but I don't know.

So my revised imaginary syllabus would have:
Undark by Sandy Pool
Glossolalia by Marita Dachsel
The Invisibility Exhibit by Sachiko Murakami
The World's Wife by Carol Ann Duffy*
The God of Missed Connections by Elizabeth Bachinksy

(*I have not read this, but I loved what Melwyk said about it over at Indextrious Reader so I'm taking her word on it, and still have it on my to-read list.)

But regardless of my imagined syllabi, do pick up Undark. It's so very good, plus the cover glows in the dark, so how could you pass that up?

No comments: