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Joan Retallack:

Leave Books
57 Livingston St.
Buffalo NY, 14213

16 pp.

ICARUS FFFFFALLING collaborates with Ovid's METAMORPHOSES, and with Retallack's students at Bard College "who when asked to go out and photograph Icarus falling found him everywhere." Icarus: boy wonder who won't follow Daddy's advice and stick to the middle way; son who by sacrificing himself covers up his father's jealousy and murder (look up the myth of Daedalus and Talos); Leonardo/Daedalus the artist building machines of destruction; "Dead-o-Lust founder of Socrates circular line"--but this is too simple a reading already. Make it messier: "a boy rejoicing in bold flight deserts his leader why this desire for open sky in species w/out wings"--not easy to refuse this. And question poetry itself: "have you noticed that poetry was one of the noble gases ripening the pomegranate never a cantaloupe or banana"--the "noble gases" are those that don't mix with others in chemical compounds. They remain pure--"and the grief remains buried in the obscurity of the Latin" as if it were one of Gibbon's chastely quoted Roman obscenities--"dis pathetic Roman tic nihil est how to: have hi-flyin ideas under fallen yellow arches." The theme of the pharmakos runs through all the myths of Daedalus and his kin; drug, poison, healing medicine, and also scapegoat, the pharmakos in ancient Greek ritual was thrown over a cliff into the sea, but provided with wings that might break his fall and let him live, though in perpetual exile. Take note: Retallack's not dealing here (or elsewhere) in the sort of cozily Jungian archetypes this might suggest; the languages she weaves together are as complex as the twenty-five or so centuries of painful aspiration and destruction she has gathered in this short poem.--Charlotte Pressler

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This review originally appeared in TapRoot Reviews #5,
Copyright Burning Press 1994, 1996.

Contact the editor, luigi-bob drake, at Burning Press