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Songs for Ophelia Paperback – June 30, 2014
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If you are one of us who rails against (or is concerned with) TechnoElectro, HyperCapitalism, and ShallowingSocial, and their cumulative effects on mind and heart, then this collection will remind the deepest 'you', of other ways to unfold to life. These are poems that describe a different way of being in the world from a different perspective. A way of life that is deeply bound to Mother Earth Herself, together with ALL beings and sentiences, that live upon Her. Like, all of the above.
Some of these poems are really not 'well-written' poems; who cares? And some feel forced, as if Theodora Goss had the keystone words she wanted to use (words not in common conversation, but certainly evocative and 'poetic'), together with keystone setting, and so forced a poem into being regardless. Who cares? Five stars from me for talent coupled with artistic bravery. And for those of you who are poets, there is much here, particularly, technically, her use of rhymes and rhythms, that arc, and some few that fly too close to the stars (as Icarus to Sun) and fall flat ... again. Vision and artistic bravery. Bravo! And much bravura.
Goss aptly divides the collection into four sections—Spring Songs, Summer Songs, Autumn Sings, and Winter Songs. While a thread of madness runs through the entire collection, each season subtly differs from another. In spring we enter into the new, and the tone combines the ethereal with the ritualistic, the visceral with the sedate. As in “The Bride,” where the bride “drifted, feather-like, across the lawn” toward her groom, an ogre who waits “by the verge of the tenebrous wood / with infinite patience.” But if spring is when you enter into the new, than summer is when you live. The tone of the summer poems is dark and dangerous, more urgent than the Spring Songs. In “The Beckoner,” Beauty prowls the night beckoning her victims, who come quite readily: “Beauty is deadly – how well we know it - / her cheeks have a treacherous living stain, / and we will kiss them, and come to her beckoning, / and never return again.”
If I had to choose a favorite section, I would choose the Autumn Songs. These songs have a sense of warning, and, though everything is in the process of dying, the environment interacts with humanity to show the vital, vibrant natures of both. In “As I Was Walking,” a woman meets with Nature, now old, on a beach where “the only song remaining / is the sound of billows / desolately breaking / on this barren shore,” yet the two dance anyway, dance with a certain madness that comes of despair and also joy, young and old entwined. While in autumn everything is in the process of death, the Winter Songs show an obsession with that death, yet not everything’s dark. These poems also have a sense of longing and a willingness to experience the new, despite the possibility and even at times certainty of despair and madness. In “Bal Macabre,” “Death, playing a mandolin, / asked when I would begin / to join with Hope and Love, the mad pavane.”
The poems in Songs for Ophelia bring to mind Tennyson and Christina Rossetti with their fairy tale themes and tight, lyrical forms, yet there’s something modern about them as well, a certain subversion of expectations, of searing images, that make them seem completely new and current