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Hotel Imperium: Poems (Contemporary Poetry Series) Paperback – December 1, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Pop and politics haven't had their hats handed to them in this Popian a manner in ages. Reminiscent of the acute fantasias of Susan Wheeler and Elaine Equi, though temperamentally closer to Connie Deanovich, Loden's poems talk about what people are (or have been) talking about, but with barbs hilariously sharpened. Targets include most of the recent Republican presidents (mercifully, she exempts Ford), beauty culture, Woody Allen, Alan Greenspan, Dan Rather and insurance companies: "For an eye, not an eye./ For a tooth, forget it," she writes in "Memo from the Benefits Department." Poetry consumers will find special interest in language/system queries such as "DCEASE," a surprisingly moving meditation that begins "There are two Elvis Presleys in the Social Security Death Master File (DCEASE). The King's social security number is 409-52-2002." And language enthusiasts will approve of "Last W&T," a rearrangement, refrigerator-poetry-magnet style, of the words of Richard Nixon's will. The danger that cynicism will overtake the indignation that propels Loden is averted by the joy, bafflement and innocence of her poems that take icons as incidental examples, not front-and-center subjects. Take "The Little Richard Story": "On a day like this,/ without the music/ of appearances, creatures/ could land and you/ would not be able to explain/ anything to them, not/ the fearless industry/ of beavers, or why dust bunnies/ prefer the dark, not even/ how Little Richard/ himself came into being." Appeals to such other believers as Gerard Manley Hopkins or the psalmist work less well, but on the whole, Loden's first full collection marches smartly down the path of satire. (Dec.)
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Fierce humor has Hotel Imperium, as well as a heady run in which Nixon and brassieres stud the trail; the whole century bends its tragedy beneath Rachel Loden’s clear intelligence. These are brilliant, moving poems―poems to read for pure joy and chills over and over from here on out.(Susan Wheeler)
Rachel Loden is not merely fashionable or current. She’s a late-century muse of everything valuable in poetry―voice, shape, gesture. Add to that a wicked sense of humor and a disarmingly fresh and penetrating eye for social and political concerns. But her poems are not political in the simple sense of the word. Loden’s poetry guarantees complexity as it charts new territory with assurance. Hotel Imperium is the debut of a startingly original writer.(Maxine Chernoff)
Steadily, with imaginative insight, humor, sarcasm, and irony, Rachel Loden looks at history. . . . In [Hotel Imperium's] corridors and rooms, Loden makes us confront many of the century’s still active ghosts. . . . Political in the very best and rarest sense of the word, Loden’s poems show us how to reimagine our (and others’) lives, with a vividness reminiscent of the "Commedia" . . . In sum: great, terrifying, insidiously beautiful work!(Anselm Hollo)
Do not be deceived: transactions with the Evil Empire recorded here are with a realm which will not alter the case, that intractable prosa mundi the Just Republic must contend with to the end: fools’ inferno, fools’ paradise. Our poet’s strategem has been to join rather than jilt her harassers, subverting from within. Daunting work, but someone had to do it—a good thing it’s this Loden woman, who has the strength of ten . . . syllables, never fear. We are inspirited.(Richard Howard)
She sends up late twentieth-century history, politics and canonical literature with a vengeance. . . . Loden is wickedly sarcastic, brilliantly ruthless―her poems are both deadly and a hoot.(North American Review)
Ablaze with moral passion, hushed in fairy-tale bliss, or chuckling up to terror, Rachel Loden’s tight poems of intricate subversion are gloriously musical, alive to each scintilla of sound and measure.(Stephanie Strickland)
Pop and politics haven't had their hats handed to them in this Popian a manner in ages. Reminiscent of the acute fantasias of Susan Wheeler and Elaine Equi, though temperamentally closer to Connie Deanovich, Loden's poems talk about what people are (or have been) talking about, but with barbs hilariously sharpened. . . . Loden's first full collection marches smartly down the path of satire.(Publishers Weekly)
No one else brings such crystalline language to absurd situations. . . . Loden uses an almost Talmudic sampling of verse and commentary to narrate a true story of falsehood, lies, and omission. . . . Information and real people are skewed and skewered in Hotel Imperium like they are in Dante's Commedia.(Chicago Review)
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Though the poet's enterprise is weighty, and the poems a romp, beauty has a place here as well. Take the following from "The Rowboat at Vladivostok:" "Now your voice is full/of what it was to leave the Marianas/on that morning, Antares graying in the sky,/the tradewinds blowing through the porpoises."
I could not put this book down, once I started it. Then I went back and re-read at random, for pleasure. Loden has accomplished a rare feat--she has taken on the enormous foolishness behind evil and harnessed it in these tight, wildly energetic and graceful poems.
The poet's enterprise is weighty, and though the poems are a romp, beauty has a place here as well. Take the following from "The Rowboat at Vladivostok:" "Now your voice is full/ of what it was to leave the Marianas. on that morning. Antares graying in the sky,/ the tradewinds blowing through the porpoises.
I could not put this book down, once I started it. Then I went back and re-read at random, for pure pleasure. Loden has accomplished a rare feat--she has taken on the enormous foolishness behind evil and harnessed it in these tight, energetic, and graceful poems.