Book Review: Daphne and her Discontents

Book Review

Daphne and her Discontents by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Published by Ravenna Press 2017

Jane Rosenberg LaForge’s new book Daphne and her Discontents delves into Greek mythology to explore the trials of Daphne and her relationship to LaForge’s own life. One of the first poems in the book, Family Business, chronicles LaForge’s childhood as part of a family of Jews that sells Christmas trees during the holiday season, and their search to avoid falling into the circumstances of their less fortunate neighbors. I was drawn into what it felt like to be an outcast in a season that steamrolls every religion that isn’t Christian.

Oh, how my mother loved Christmas . . . God how I hated it, because I hated being left out. (page 3)

In the following poems, LaForge goes on to explain the difficulties of being “a compliant daughter(page  6). One who embraces her family’s past. One whose mother resembles a tree, whose branches long to curl around and protect her family from unknown threats. As LaForge lists her faults before the gods, the reader feels LaForge’s resemblance to her mother. Both long for the rootedness of trees while at the same time plotting their escape from circumstances. Gods are flawed beings like her father, holding out and withdrawing affection with impunity, as a training tool.

“. . . the only thing I blame him for is confusing the myths of stones and trees, and what fathers and gods do with their children.” (page 37)

A parent’s lessons are repeated generationally, unable to transform as Daphne transformed to escape her fate. LaForge also embraces the past through her children, as in her poem Explaining the Holocaust to My Daughter (page 64). How do you explain the unexplainable? With gentleness. Despite it all, children understand.

Trees move through LaForge’s poems like wind through the branches. Trees and books become the method of transformation away from the past. In one poem she states, “I am Daphne because I cannot peel myself open(page 68), when in fact the whole book is the peeling away of layers, of the way family influences our innermost thoughts, the push-pull of Christianity against Judaism, the sense of place as a grounding mechanism, and the self-imposed fragility of Daphne despite her strong roots. In the final poem, Burnt by the sun god, LaForge laments; When the Dutch ruled the world, and the best parts of Russian novels had to be in French, my people were a hitch above mongrel. . . (page 74). Despite this, the love LaForge has for her family shines through.

I enjoyed reading Daphne and her Discontents, pausing to savor LaForge’s deft phrases and raw honesty. The poems wend their way through family and gods with equal intensity. I highly recommend this book.

Constance Brewer, Editor, Gyroscope Review

 

Daphne and her Discontents

by Jane Rosenberg LaForge

Published by Ravenna Press 2017

$11.95

Link to book

Web site, jane-rosenberg-laforge.com,

Author page on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Jane-Rosenberg-Laforge-Author-269805766510206/

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Wrap This Up: The 2017 Issues

We are pleased to announce that we have assembled all of our 2017 issues of Gyroscope Review in one place.

Wrap This Up: The 2017 Issues is available now on Amazon as either a print version ($20 plus shipping; free shipping with Amazon Prime) or a Kindle version ($9.99).

We are proud of our 2017 contributing poets and hope you want to read them all again in this collection. We are pretty sure this is the best holiday gift ever.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

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Villanelle – A Racy Import With An Interesting Form

If you’re a sucker for poetic homework, expand your horizons by working on a villanelle.

A villanelle is only 19 lines long, but has a strict form. The lines can be of any length, contain five tercets and a quatrain in the last stanza. The rhyme scheme is aba with the same end-rhyme for every 1st and last line of each tercet and the final two lines of the quatrain. You must repeat two of the lines, the first line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 2nd and the 4th stanzas and as the second-to-last line in the concluding quatrain. The 3rd line of the 1st stanza is repeated as the last line of the 3rd and the 5th stanzas, and as the last line in the concluding quatrain.

Got that? Good.

(You know the most famous of the villanelles. Think eccentric Welshman.) Remember, it’s only aba in rhyme scheme, arranged as follows:

A1
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1

a
b
A2

a
b
A1
A2

The first five lines are the tercets (3 tercets x 5 lines = 15) and the last line is the quatrain (4 lines + 15  lines  = 19 lines). The last two lines of the poem make a rhymed couplet. It’s not as stodgy as it sounds, you can use enjambment to break up the lines, you can modify the rhymes slightly for effect, and you can bend the rules to suit your style. So why even bother if there are so many rules to the form? Because it’s like scales in music. Working within the constraints is sometimes more freeing than free verse.

Finding the right combination of lines that doesn’t sound, well, stupid when repeated is a challenge. Not to mention that it’s damn near impossible to create a narrative poem within a villanelle. So to keep yourself from getting stuck in a ditch and writing only one thing, play with this and other forms, and thank the French, who gave us not only the villanelle, but mayonnaise and the gyroscope.

(The most famous example? Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas. Google it.)

The Waking
— Theodore Roethke

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

 

Essay previously published by Constance Brewer

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Book Review: The THIRD Voice by Eric Greinke

A Gyroscope Review Review:

The THIRD VOICE: Notes on the Art of Poetic Collaboration
by Eric Greinke
Presa Press, 84 pages, $13.95
Date of Publication: November 1, 2017


If a poet has lost the joy of wordplay, I suggest that a lively collaboration may be the antidote.

-Eric Greinke

Did you ever sit at the feet of someone, say a grandparent or some other elder in your life, who shared stories of their long life/career/travels, bask in their memories, and perhaps learn from them? That was the feeling I had throughout my reading of Eric Greinke’s new book, The THIRD Voice: Notes on the Art of Poetic Collaboration.

Greinke’s poetic career reaches back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when he was, as he writes, part of  “the local poetry avant-garde in Western Michigan” (p. 11). His poetry output skipped several years when he focused instead on his social work career, then picked up again in the new millenium with the publication of  Selected Poems 1972-2005 (Presa Press, 2005). Collaborative work was, and is, an enormous part of Greinke’s poetry.

In The THIRD Voice, Greinke looks back on his collaborations with poets Harry Smith, John Elsberg, Hugh Fox, Glenna Luschei, and Alison Stone. In language that borrows from both literary theory and the social work/therapy realms, Greinke deconstructs those collaborations so readers understand how they came about, how the work grew out of his relationship with each poet, and what Greinke ultimately learned about poetry and the art of collaboration. He shares pieces that were written in those collaborations as examples of how two different voices may come together in a third, new voice. He also discusses the many ways poetic collaboration can be structured, beginning with dialogic collaboration, which is “a form where poets write whole poems independently but in specific response to each other’s poems” (p. 17). He later segues into collaborations in which poets alternate writing each line, where the process grows organically into invented forms and sequences, and exercises where one poet might write the first, last, and title lines while the other poet writes three lines to fill in the middle of the poem. He discusses haiku and tanka sequences as collaborative projects, and the invention of one-line poems in response to a title. He explores how collaboration may be influenced by gender and age differences, and relishes balancing differences with commonalities.

Greinke’s interest in collaborations was first influenced by the 1967 publication Bean Spasms (Kulchur Press), which was a collaboration between the writers Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett, with a little help from their friend, illustrator Joe Brainard. As Greinke sees it, Bean Spasms gave permission to have fun with poetry. And perhaps this idea is one of the biggest take-aways of The THIRD Voice. Poetry can be a lot of fun, word play is truly play, and who doesn’t like to have fun playing with others?

Poetic collaboration is more than play, of course. It offers poets so many opportunities for expanding their work and for working through tough topics. Greinke’s collaboration with his friend Hugh Fox offers a beautiful example of collaborating through grief; the two of them spent a year writing poetry together while Fox was dying of cancer. One of the resulting poems, Beyond Our Control, was constructed a line at a time, Fox and Greinke each composing every other line. Greinke considers this his best collaborative work. The poem, a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, illustrates how two poets might turn their grief into art and blend their voices into a third voice that good collaboration makes possible.

Overall, this gentle, nostalgic look at the poetic collaborations Eric Greinke has enjoyed over his writing life offers one of the best incentives of all for poets who are considering their options: joy. Collaborate with another poet, let it evolve organically, and reclaim the joy of word play that called to you the day you first fell in love with a poem.

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