Dorothea Lasky / Thunderbird / Wave Books / 2012
Thunderbird is a fairly seamless collection of lyrics / integrated around recurring themes and values.
Beginning perhaps twenty years ago / the I-poem came under attack – for being egotistic / for failing to take advantage of the objective correlative / for being self-centered / for trying to dominate the sensibility of the reader as it had (apparently) that of the writer / for being (too) easy to write.
In Dorothea’s book / the litany of I’s is so persistent that it becomes almost invisible – such that the I very nearly disappears / at least on some level – what appears in its place is a sort of you – this rather massive incantation answers in that way to some of those otherwise prescient objections.
So much is said about / or rather by / the I – that it begins to exist by being the-contradiction-of-itself.
There is no doubt / and this we learn early on / that this is an I that knows itself / that knows itself being / that knows itself being (thisthat) I.
The I keeps expanding.
To re-read the poems is to find oneself wondering who read them the first time.
Thunderbird is a book of psalms to / and of / the eternal quotidian / to that which happens to us (naturally) / and to that which me make happen (naturally) / and to the multiple feelings to which all of this going-on-ness gives rise.
The subject is life / what makes it what it is (What makes it what it is?) / and all that goes (and all that comes and goes) along with that (with this) living. Dorothea’s view of life is essentially existential (if that isn’t unacceptably oxymoronic) / but tempered always with the ongoing gift of caring. By saying that it’s of the existential / I’m saying that she writes about (and because of) things that have happened to her. Her caring-gift imparts to the poems something like whatever it is we seem to be thinking about when we think the soulful / the spiritual.
The poems are also full of thinking / and the thinking is often about all of the feeling that is going on / and about the relationships between the speaking-writing-I and this world / and between that I and other I’s.
This book is richly empathetic.
There is also a lot written about death. Death is a difficult problem-topic to come to terms with in poems – after all / it can only be expressed / not “solved” – the experience is presumably unique to any person’s one lifetime / and as such can only be experienced / lived through. We can’t seem to have life without it / so here it is.
The poems are lyrical in the most traditional sense of the word – they read like the lyrical words of song. The phrases / for example / of which these poems are constructed / almost always end where the line ends – they grapple with space in that rather comfortable and comforting way. And the poems almost always end with a gentle exhalation.
For the most part / each individual poem is one long gust / a gush of air going toward (for the moment / going toward) the conclusion (the inclusion) of that particular poem. Each one is a studied gesture / of a sort that is like the others / but also of a sort that sets it apart.
At times there is a tone of almost bashful disingenuousness – the words are simple – the ideas are not uncommon / though they rise to (and through) uncommon images / uncommon sheets of words. I think that children would enjoy listening to these poems.
Is this poetry self centered? Is there a self upon which to be centered? That is the enduring question – and these poems ask it / in their way.
Poet and essayist Alan Davies was born in Alberta, Canada, and earned his BA from Atlantic Union College in Massachusetts. In the mid-70s he edited the poetry journal A Hundred Posters. As a Harvard summer school student, he took classes taught by Robert Creeley and Octavio Paz, and he also...