Tuesday, February 22, 2005

It Blows You Hollow by Diane Seuss-Brakeman

A Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Paperback: 64 pages
# Publisher: New Issues Poetry Press; 1st ed edition, 1998
# ISBN: 0932826652
# $12.00

There is no stopping the magic that comes from the wand - the pen - in Seuss's hand. It bursts forth like a bouquet of outrageously colored wildflowers from this first collection of her poems. It is not an easy magic. The sweat beads and trickles down the side of this magician's face. There is grit and suffering behind the art. The reader feels, must feel, her loss, her pain, and senses the strength that will carry her through to the next battle.

"You'll hear me coming," Seuss writes in her poem "Whole." And we do. We hear her with bells on, we hear her heavy breathing in the night, we hear her praying in the dark, we hear her roaring at the heavens, we hear her whispering a longing that will outlast all of us. The presence of Seuss in her poetry is not a mild or meek one.

Seuss's poetry returns repeatedly to themes of loss and grief, which provoke a fierce and stubborn survival response. She expresses a stubborn claim to her woman's strength - "Scars are erogenous zones" - even as she longs for the balm of a divine healing presence. For Seuss, God, usually female, is an approachable presence, found everywhere and in everyone, in the most everyday people and places, as likely to be wearing a blonde wig and green eye shadow as to be a lumbering bear with claws.

In other poems, Seuss talks of her father, who died when she was young, and, one suspects, has left her with a longing that intertwines with her longing for God, the sometimes father-figure. The longing is not for an afterlife, but a now-life, today, here, in the very instant that Seuss reveals herself in all her faulty and gorgeous humanity. With such intense living comes intense suffering. Loneliness is her lurking demon in the dark.

The slim volume is divided into three sections. The first focuses on autobiographical themes, and the second resounds with a philosophical timbre. The final section is written on Drummond Island, off the coast of Michigan's Upper Peninsula where Seuss sometimes goes to gather her thoughts and, perhaps, meet with God in the form of a black bear. The loneliness, the loss, the many farewells, in this section become a more prominent motif.

After Seuss has driven into her deepest need, beyond the loss, she wonders:

Could it be
that something still waits for me,
open-armed, on that other shore?

We await anxiously the next slim volume to find out.

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