Linda Russo Walks the Line of Looking in Essays on Dorothy Wordsworth and Others
Linda Russo's book of essays, To Think of Her Writing Awash In Light: Lyrical Essays on Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Dickinson, Hettie Jones, Joanne Kyger and Anne Waldman (Subito Press, 2016), is reviewed by Rebecca Brown for Black Warrior Review. Russo continually "questions who has the right to look and what lens we should be looking through," writes Brown. More:
These essays are lyrical in the fullest sense of the word. Each essay is highly associative in nature, pulling strands from Russo’s life and experiences while studying these writers and her personal reflection alongside the words of the writers themselves. Three of the essays begin in the same place, an examination of the physical space which the writer inhabited, and then drift through the emotional landscape surrounding the work or the writers themselves. In the midst of this, Russo is a careful guide. She takes the reader down a winding path, where each move feels planned, not unexpected, yet still not forced. There is a sense of discovery in each new turn, a feeling of walking alongside Russo through the physical and emotional terrain, learning as she learns, seeing as she sees.
Russo seems to be conscious of her role, both as the one who looks and the one who holds the looking glass. She writes critically of the predominantly male gaze that controlled the narratives of Dorothy Wordsworth and Hettie Jones and reduced them to the wives of capital P poets. This male gaze is addressed directly in “(Dorothy Wordsworth): Weeding/Sowing/Stucking/Walking,” by including direct quotations of William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas De Quincy describing Dorothy, reducing her to a description of her body, her eyes (9).
Russo walks a fine line in her own looking. In discussing the way that William Wordsworth used Dorothy’s journals for inspiration, Russo, herself, erases and rearranges Dorothy’s words, to highlight their poetic nature...
Find the full review at BWR.