Sunday, February 2, 2020

John C. Goodman reviews Mary Kasimor's disrobing iris (2019)

John C. Goodman was good enough to provide the first review of Mary Kasimor's disrobing iris (2019) over at Otoliths; thanks so much! You can see the original review here.
In disrobing iris, Mary Kasimor engages us in a continuing dance of connection and alienation combined in a dazzling balance of control and abandon. The book is intensely personal, exploring a sense of “the ownership of loss”, lost beauty (“she was once beautiful”), lost opportunity (“possibility/doesn’t know what it is missing”), and struggling to find an inner place in a world of fragments and memories, searching for a fearless grace in a fractured reality.

These poems are about interconnectedness, especially the interconnectedness of the natural world contrasted with our alienation from it. There is a tension between fragmentation and connection reflected in the interplay between words and emotions. Kasimor uses the techniques of post-modernism to create a deeply emotional landscape, similar to the way Sylvia Plath used the techniques of Modernism to express her inner world. These poems fill out the relentless intellectualism of post-modernism with searing emotion. Although criticized for lack of feeling (“I am intellectual and cold”), Kasimor’s insensitive external persona is a cover for a chasm of emotional depth too painful to acknowledge (“I left my loss in the room/with gray walls – it slept with the rain”).

In disrobing iris, we haven’t created a human world so much as deconstructed the natural world, which makes us question ourselves and search for the meaning in what we have done (“forcing/the eye/to find itself”). Nature tries to heal through ancient and eternal patterns, but finds the world too disfigured (“trembling     without a radius/in the     diagram     of broken lines”).

Sewing, a traditionally feminine occupation, is a recurring theme as a way of threading things together (“ants restring broken air”), but also as a way of making boundaries (“of stitched culture”) and as a means of repression (“she knew all the stitches to close her mouth”). The feminine is lost in mirrors, make-up, dresses of spun sugar and fractured reflections (“girl babies in the window/the de-feminization of them”). The feminine is prevented from healing the world because women are culturally reduced to commodities (“the mass of little men/digging up my fingers—two for a dollar”, “to market love and atmosphere/for the impulses of men”).

Sewing both connects us to and alienates us from meaning (“God’s life sewn shut”). The act of sewing becomes a means of revolt, making connections in a new way (“a new language of dropped stitches”) that disrupts the cultural rhetoric of oppression (“secrets/of cross stitch draw blood”), a revolution accomplished through small acts of reconnection with the natural world, achieved, not by the flamboyant ego (“I have an intuitive self-importance), but by the quiet small “i” persona (“i Sew/together the edges/to keep the Broken air/restrung”).

disrobing iris shows how our emotional identity is bound to the physical and that alienation from the natural world (“I cannot locate myself/outside”) brings alienation from the self resulting in objectification (“a thing/shaped image. a talking device”). In the end, we need to listen to the natural world and participate the endless cycle of life (“logic grips the ceaseless”), for new beginnings always start with the mundane (life squatted giving birth./I wiped off the blood,/spent the evening watching television.”).

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