This week, I’m talking about some of the poets who will be reading in next week’s DC-area literary festival, Fall for the Book. (You can find the schedule here.)
I’ve been reading Danielle Cadena Deulen’s Lovely Asunder, which was the 2011 winner of the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize. Deulen’s graceful lyric voice draws us into these poems with gentle, but persistent, pressure. Like Louise Gluck, one of the poets she thanks on the book’s Acknowledgements page, her carefully wrought language conceals a sharp edge, particularly when pertaining to romantic relationships. Though Duelen delves into many subjects, she writes most compellingly about the tug between desire and holding back, which seems to be the central conflict of the book.
Her poem “Written in Skin” expresses the simultaneous desire to be marked by another, and yet also to rid oneself of that marking:
Now that my first lover is a boy whose name
even he forgets, whose face is
a cloud, whose body has evaporated over the frozen
earth like the breaths of strangers. Now that I know everything
permanent fades from the body…Now that the shape of those years
rises from the horizon.
–from “Written in Skin”
Many of the poems, like Gluck’s edgy earlier work, enact the intensity and ambivalence of these relationships. Here are a few of my favorite moments from Lovely Asunder:
We could rendezvous like children in a place
we build ourselves, make a roof from branches,
bittersweet and eyebright, choose whose body
will be the structural beams, whose body will be
the windows, doors. If we are the house, who will
live in us? No time for rational thoughts, my
Skeleton Key, just hold me in your arms like
a pinata broke open. Why does this distance always
feel violent, you said…
–from “Lost Letter II”
Between houses there are trees with mangoes heavy as moons,
and beneath the trees there are lovers. At least,
I call them lovers. I don’t know what they call themselves.
–from “Morro De Sao Paulo”
Perhaps you think
I’m exaggerating. But consider that poor, docile girl,
pulled from Adam’s own rib to replace me –
She tried to leave, too. You’ve heard
what they say about her.
–from “First Wife”
What I loved of you
is plagued by wanting-desire
like a lesion of the mind.