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Pain Can Be Quite Alluring: Elisa Gabbert’s L’Heure Bleue or The Judy Poems

By Harriet Staff


The Critical Flame: A Journal of Literature & Culture has Matt Mullins reviewing Elisa Gabbert’s new book of poems, L’Heure Bleue or The Judy Poems (Black Ocean, 2016), wherein “Gabbert creates (or performs) a mind drawn out of a fictional construct: Judy, one of three characters from Wallace Shawn’s play The Designated Mourner.” More:

Readers don’t need to know The Designated Mourner to enjoy L’Heure Bleue. Gabbert’s new poems stand on their own as experiments in consciousness and character. They are written in the voice of Judy, Shawn’s character, and in the voice of Judy as she has been imagined and played by Gabbert. A reader is invited into Judy’s perspective, though the voice often sounds like the Elisa Gabbert of The French Exit and The Self Unstable:

I’m not in love with Jack.

I have a crush on Jack.

Jack is my husband, who left me.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”
is a silly way of putting the truth,
that rejection is seductive.

The title serves as the opening line (more on this later), but it is also the first in a triptych of lines that invites us into the mind of a woman whose world seems defined by her relationships with her father and husband. Gabbert reconfigures these relationships by relocating their center of gravity from Jack—“I’m not in love with Jack. / I have a crush on Jack.”—to Judy: “Jack is my husband, who left me.” In the first two lines, Judy orbits around Jack; in the third line he orbits around her. The closing stanza is vintage Gabbert, resuscitating a cliché by revealing its duplicity: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is an absurd way of observing that pain can be quite alluring.

Read the full review at Critical Flame.

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Posted in Poetry News on Thursday, February 9th, 2017 by Harriet Staff.