This is my third entry in my series of poetry collection reviews having finished Watching the Spring Festival: Poems by Frank Bidart yesterday. Like the others, I had read this previously a few years back.
Two months back I found myself killing time in the Munich airport. An elderly lady sat next to me and saw that I was working on a crossword puzzle out of a British newspaper. In moderately accented English, she started to tell me about being robbed of her papers, and police cameras everywhere, and how she stays at the airport because she is undercover against the governments of Germany and Britain and America because she is exposing their secret agendas. She was very pleasant (albeit schizophrenic), and she just would not go away. Reading this poetry collection is a similar experience. The sounds are fun in an ee cummings manner (at times), but the message is lost in the crazy. The collection pretends that it wants to make a statement or comparison to communism (at least in the opening long poem of the same title as the collection), but ends up just cramming in as many Russian icons as possible: “The Deus ex Machina Puppet Troupe/flew into Leningrad half past noon.//I waited among the Tatars bored/as moons. Woody showed, stinking//of pomegranate, gulag-eating grin./I let him make a bed in my ear.//His rent cost nothing, two dummy rubles/and a half-spent roll of gossamer.//I babushkaed around his breath/100 mornings as if icons were Workers,//poems blocks of ice. My comrades say . . .”
There is a sense of fun here, however. Or possibly a sound of fun, as in her ode to pigs, “Cloven by Cloven:” “I have dined on the deviled, the pickled, the rude:/bacon, baloney, barbecue, maws,//neckbones, ears, feet, knees./I sing the canned and the candied. . . .” Unfortunately, sounding fun and being fun can be two different things in my experience.
[Check out my other reviews here.]