Monday, April 19, 2010

The Diamond Dog

I have been reading Diane Wakoski's new book, The Diamond Dog.  Here is a review.

I think the book contains poems that are among her best work, including "Black Ships Drawn Up on a White Beach," "Blue Ice Wolf," and "Things That Make Her Weep." Some critics seem to feel that Wakoski spends too much time working through and reworking failed relationships.  As someone who still aches with hurt over a break-up that is years gone by, and as someone who (like Wakoski herself) is currently in a stable and happy relationship but can still spend long minutes obsessing about what could have been, or what was not said, I tend to think in her poems she is just more honest about the lasting emotional reality of  lost lovers and old betrayals and failures than most of us find comfortable.

The new work, however, while certainly made up in part of poems addressed to old lovers, and poems that examine the hurt of love lost, and fathers figures who disappoint, encompasses that hurt and moves beyond it.  The Diamond Dog, a figure that through its permutations becomes as weighted and tangled with meaning as the most potent dream image, is the faithful dog, the dog that remains at its mistress's heel, or, at her bidding, runs forward, a scout, sniffing out the way to a place where the hurts of the past are burned to ash. And that place may be the realm that Whitman says is "different from what any one supposed, and luckier."

Here is the final stanza of "Blue Ice Wolf":

even in the blast from the icy polish
and shine off my father's military shoe,
transformed into the shimmer of the dog's diamond print,
then the Ice Wolf's blue paw,
finally the King of Spain's luscious royal foot
gloved, glinting gold; and I know
that at last he/they've come back,
and are waiting till it's time for me to follow them.
Any morning, if I glance up quickly,
when facing the wood of a Norwegian Maple
across the street,
I can make out their shadows.

Next up: brief remarks on other new books I am reading, including Other Flowers by James Schuyler and Black Life by Dorthea Lasky.

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