October 2, 2008

Review: Forms of Intercession by Jayne Pupek

Forms of Intercession by Jayne Pupek is a collection as unsettling as it is beautiful. In (I) Forms of Intercession, the first of three sections in this imagistically dense, narrative work, we are introduced to gentle-seeming female narrators with a desire for an almost violent rebellion. The women (or woman) in these poems are aware of a magical property in their own bodies, watching the lifeline in their hands deepen or making a potion of hair and feathers with a sense of both longing and simultaneous understanding. This, combined with the sexual, but not at all titillating element the poems often take on, gives the characters in them a shamanistic, earth-mother quality.

In the second section, (II) What If?, there is an increased sense of the magic of the female body with the narrator becoming a mermaid and the lines between waking and dreaming life, between real life and fantasy, blurring even further. This section also offers up my favorite poem of the book, Withholding, where Pupek writes,

“Set in fields, poppies survive.
Nature strengthens by withholding.

Perhaps it’s the same with a woman.
Withhold love, watch how far she’ll go to find it.”

This section shifts to a tone of uncertainty and doubt, even fear as Pupek’s narrators, always in the intimate “I”, speak of cheating spouses, of children dead of stillbirth, infanticide, or abortion, always with a hauntingly beautiful voice and the ear for soft, low sound that Pupek maintains throughout the book.

In the final section, (III) Slivers, the tone shifts again to one of persistence and belief. Men become impotent and weak rather than having the delicate balance between equals and prey demonstrated in the first section or as perpetrators of harm as they are presented in the second section. In this section there is also a movement from simply understanding and consciousness of the magical quality of the female body to an attempt to utilize that quality with an element of openness and power as in Scoliosis where she writes,

“I turn, raise my dress
and show my spine,
a curved snake
hissing inside bone.”

Indeed, there is still a darkness to Pupek’s writing, even in this section, but as she closes the book in the poem Sliver,

“Life is full of broken combs and blisters. Still we go on
because it is in us, the need for continuance,
that sliver of persistence inside every cell.”

Forms of Intercession by Jayne Pupek was published by Mayapple Press in 2008 and can be ordered from them or on amazon.com.
Jayne Pupek's website may be found here.
She has also recently published a novel, Tomato Girl, which may be found here.

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