AND RACHEL LODEN'S HOTEL IMPERIUM
Fargnoli has a sure
way of talking
about the things
that matter, about love
Loden catches a moment
the reader the option of laughing
or crying, then slips in
barb that, if it does not make you
laugh aloud, makes you
much of our
best poetry is, ultimately, a reflection of the poet looking in a
That mirror does not necessarily reflect the physical image of the
instead it brings into focus the poetâs view of whatever she
placed in time or in geographic place. Two new and very different
collections of poems exemplify this: Patricia Fargnoliâs Necessary
Light (The May Swenson Poetry Award Series from the Utah State
Press) is firmly grounded in her New England landscape and speaks from
it to share what she sees, and Rachel Lodenâs Hotel Imperium
Contemporary Poetry Series from the University of Georgia Press) finds
its place in her time, especially the period of the Richard Nixon
and its aftermath.
of Necessary Light, Fargnoli tells us "How This Poet
The poem she shapes for this purpose is itself lovely:
I think the way someone listens
in a still place for the sound of quiet÷
or the way my body sways
at the transition zone, back and forth
between field and woods÷a witching stick....
And that's what Necessary
does: shows us the ways the poet imagines and drinks in her life.
As with most books I like a lot, this one invites me to share the
way of seeing, listening, tasting.
From "Hopper's Paintings":
I can imagine the people inside of them,
Solitary, yes, and yet not utterly lonely,
perhaps reading or passing slowly from room to room,
a hairbrush or toothpaste in their hand.
This is Nemerov's "next
room of the
dream." We see the scene. Fargnoli takes us into the next
in beautiful language.
a sure way of talking about the things that matter, about love and sex
and death. I love the contrast between "Landscape in Blue and
and "From Eleven Years Later" with "Breaking Silence ÷ for My
The poems are "real." Men and women together. But the first
two are almost mythic, as Fargnoli says in the second:
I want to speak with you in the round vowels
of your own language
to tell you how
I've named you myth and memory,
how I've made you a half-god.
Compare that with
the scene in the car in "Breaking Silence": "I know you want me to say
I loved him / but I wanted only to belong ÷ to anyone. / So I
let it happen,
the way I let all of it happen...." The contrast is between the
we think things ought to be ÷ love that is mythic in proportion
that awakens sweet memories for years with what actually happens and,
a true, real love that ensues, between mother and son:
And in a distant inviolate place,
as though it had nothing at all
to do with him, you were a spark
in silence catching.
with many poets
whose work appeals strongly to me, Fargnoli's poems are grounded in
Her New England is alien to me, but in poems like "Sag Harbor Sundown,"
"Crossing the Sound," and "Pemaquid Beach after a Week Alone," the
root themselves in place and share that place. I love some of the
lines in these poems: "As though no time had passed / we looked out
the sound / in that absent-minded way we've learned" and "Top deck of
ferry, at the back rail, I watch / herring gulls ride updrafts,
on bread chunks / tossed by a small boy in an outsized tee shirt" and
stops to pick a seaweed-tangled rope / from the line of wrack, /
You get a sense of whereness and that whereness is
with people I suspect I would see if I had spent my time there instead
of in the where where I spent it.
Imperium wakes us to recent history, from the faint stirring of the
fifties through the ferment of the sixties and seventies, but Hotel
Imperium is not a political tract. It is a gorgeous
of poems using a language charged with energy. From the earliest
poem in the book, "The Killer Instinct," to the final poem, "My Test
Loden uses wit, parody, allusions, a unique and fascinating way of
at the universe in a riotously original fashion. What can you do
when you read lines like these
from "The Killer Instinct,"
No one can quite
get over it. It is summer and revenge
lies sweetly in the fields
with her legs open,
her Bo Peep
petticoats in ribbons.
or the Frost parody that
Test Market," "Her aim is true, // her snowshoes always full of
/ We wonât come back. You come too," except sit back and
them. We do too much exegesis; sometimes we just need to
to sit back as readers and soak in the excitement of the language, the
wit and exuberance.
Often in Hotel
Imperium Loden catches a moment that gives the reader the option of
laughing or crying, then slips in a slight barb that, if it does not
you laugh aloud, makes you grin with recognition. The humor is
the recognition is not Wilsonâs "shock of recognition," but is a
of acknowledgment. Listen to the first two stanzas of "Clueless
Sometimes, when you shake your head,
it is like snow settling
on the little village in the paperweight.
Other times, itâs not÷and thatâs why
God made the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
He canât always put a plaque up
on the spot.
Itâs the juxtaposition
of the images; the peaceful scene shocked into relationship with the
I admire that intermixture of images tremendously, her ability to jam
dissimilar images together and make something new and original from
Later in that same poem, Loden writes, "Iâm a consultant.
/ ÷ I mean, naked ÷ aggression, is what this thing / is
all about, plus
Bernie Shaw...." Loden has written not a "funny" book of poems,
an insightful, witty collection. In that last line, we grin at
"nude"/"naked" pairing, but we realize we are talking about a not so
tribute to a number of poets. You see Yeats in a few lines, "That
is no game for sissies. / The assembled / playmates, wet / behind the
and Hopkins, "Svetlana, are you grieving / over dacha-days unleaving?"
and Frost, "We wonât come back. You come too."
so much more than just a compilation of witty, telling poems.
the book speaks of a time period when the young were both optimistic
pessimistic, a period when idealism was tempered with irony.
own irony holds that time period up to poetic light and in dazzling
offers it to all of us.
Light and Hotel Imperium, on the surface, are the products
two different strands of American poetry. Fargnoliâs poems
extend a New England tradition that began long before Robert Frost and
reminds us that the picture from her poem, "Visiting Frostâs
have to know where youâre going ÷ / down the dead end
road·") does not
reach a literal dead end, that there remains room for extension of that
path in quite lovely and striking verse. Loden nods to that same
tradition in some of her parodic moments, but takes a different road, a
road that includes cummings and Marjorie Perloff and others in the
of the avant garde. Together, Loden and Fargnoli show us that the
particular branch, the classification of poems, is not nearly as
as the craft and imagination of the poet.
Fargnoli, Patricia. Necessary
Light. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press,
ISBN: 0-87421-276-6 $15.95.
Loden, Rachel. Hotel
Imperium. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press,
ISBN: 0-8203-2169-9 $15.05
© by H. Palmer Hall