Lyn Lifshin's new collection, 92
Rapple Drive (Coatlism Press, 2008)
Lyn Lifshin likes to make the world disappear. For those who hold tightly to their solid, carefully appointed universes, her poems might be a source of irritation as she challenges the very foundations upon which we stand. She, like the best magician, will show you the card, but you cannot notice the sleight of hand as it fades away. We do not know where 92 Rapple Drive is, but within its mysterious walls, whole lives come and go with a whisper and a wisp of wind. Those of us who have read much Lifshin recognize the characters: the woman pretending to be a wife, the mysterious email lover, the spurned lover, the dying mother, the cats. Yet these characters seem almost incidental to the disappearing act. The stage is set in the first poem, "before anyone in my/life was in my life/not the cat,/the man's fingers,/blackberries tangled/under blood maple/tangle weed grazed/ankles and trees ." The poem has occurred before the poem was written. We go into an alternate time/space. It ends, "shapes, moving in/shadows could be/whatever you imagined."
The poems can be violent; a wine bottle is thrown, blood is spilt, a pregnant woman is murdered, yet still the blows are softened by this shape-shifting out of "reality", by making things "not enough" or not remembered or put before or after time. A series of blues poems, starting with "The Bad Bad Bad Bad Blues" are more hard hitting, rhythmic, full of blue images, "not just the/inky sapphire,not/the cobalt the blue/eyes crying in /its rain but the/black cat blues,/the cat jolting out/of bed the kill,/blue of sarcoma ." But each one of these poems has a way of avoiding the "inevitable ending", slipping off into "only half/way there" blues, blues that have not fully arrived, blues we have to look for because there were "more blue than/there were words."
Lyn Lifshin's prolificalness is legendary. Here is a bright spirit burning with poetry. Like Anna Pavlova, who brought the swan alive, Lyn is a streak of adrenaline dancing that does not burn out. Her magic is that she can appear and disappear without a trace. Her poems will fill us with color and then let us drift away in the mist. But the creative muscles of this writer are that of steel and this is the true irony. A poem titled, "December 29, 2005" could be an autobiography:
with the windows open,
A woman darts toward
past soap and towels,
long slowly drowsy
and the fire and plum
These are the real colors and this is the life of the poem, which is also the life of the spirit. We are fortunate to have this sublime poet leaping to us with her wild poems.
Alice Pero is a poet and musician living in Los Angeles. Her book, Thawed
Stars was hailed by Kenneth Koch as having "clarity and surprises."
She runs the reading series, "Moonday" in Pacific Palisades.