EILEEN TABIOS Engages
They Talk About Death by Alessandra Bava
(Blood Pudding Press, Medina, OH, 2014)
“They Talk About Death” is both the title poem in the chapbook and certainly a theme throughout the collection. Thus you have mention of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton discussing suicide in “They Talk About Death,” arsenic and Rimbaud in “Rimbaud’s Spoon and Fork,” lips smeared with poison in “Madame Bowery,” among others. And while the poems are well-crafted, perhaps I wouldn’t have been moved to write a review were it not for the poem “Exquisite Corpse” whose wit I much savored. Here’s an excerpt, which picks up from when Henry Miller walks into the café where the poem’s persona waits:
My first line is the head,
you add the neck then I
pen the torso.
In the end we stare at
our beautiful corpse of
The Parisian light envelopes us
and the terrace, as you repeat
the mantra the Surrealists
pronounced every time they
met at 54 rue du Chateau
“Le cadaver exquis boira
le vin nouveau.*” We nod
our heads sipping the fat
belfries of St. Sulpice,
watching the world go by.
* “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine.”
There’s more than one reference to Plath and Rimbaud in the collection, logical given the theme of the collection. But these two poets’ spirits (so to speak) obviously energize Bava to good purpose given the powerful poems she’s moved to write. “Dreaming Arthur” and “Vision” also have powerful endings as well as serve as powerful ending to the collection. Here are ending excerpts from both poems below. The excerpt from “Dreaming Arthur” picks up from when the poem’s persona finishes sharing about Rimbaud’s powerful writings: “Abyssinian darkness, / seasons in hells,…”
He grabs my hand
and cries: “Wake up!
I’m just a ghost
selling false promises
wine. I am only an
blazed away to ash.
How can I rest in peace
if even my words refuse to
And then Plath’s “Vision” ending with
As I carve my own poem, I hear the
The vivid stained glass windows on my bark shake with might.
The sap oozes.
The nave collapses and I am left to contemplate the
They Talk About Death is a slim chap of 13 poems, and yet the emotions they rouse from the reader are … HUGE. Recommended.
Eileen Tabios reveals something about herself in ARDUITY'S interview about what's hard about her poetry. Her just-released poetry collection, SUN STIGMATA (Sculpture Poems), received a review by Amazon Hall of Famer reviewer Grady Harp. Due out in 2015 will be her second "Collected Poems" project; while her first THE THORN ROSARY was focused on the prose poem form, her forthcoming INVEN(S)TORY will focus on the list or catalog poem form. More information at http://eileenrtabios.com