Review of Daphne and Her Discontents

This book of poems by Jane Rosenberg LaForge is structured around the Greek myth of Daphne, the naiad. You may choose to “cheat” and look over the myth if you don’t already know about it before reading this book, or you may go in “cold” (my situation). Immediately upon starting into the book, I found the imagery absolutely transporting. Right from the start I was given a strong sense of Ms. LaForge’s words spinning their imagery around cascading truths summoned by the winding and circling imagery. The writing is “punchy” and as close to flawless as I have seen. It is very earthy and solid as opposed to the overly “precious” surface veneer of most of the poetry that I have seen. Much like fiction will do, it is telling a story and not just rehashing the Daphne myth, though that can be followed down throughout. There are many other stories being concurrently told here and in a way that reveals Ms. LaForge to be an extraordinary talent. The writing is variegated and multilayered, demanding multiple readings to get to the core. It is complex yet loose and inviting, with no “klinkers” present to throw the reader off the rails, as are found in the work of less talented, disciplined, and experienced poets.

For example, the following is bare bones but typically vivid:

“Because if a man hollers to your dog and your dog goes running, then the man comes up to your porch and your women greet him; and then the man comes into your home and sits at your table and helps himself to your meat, bread, and beverages; then soon he is in your bedroom, which has become a cafeteria for his surfeit. My mother supposedly knew about…”

Words conjured by the following, this reveals the flow and flux of life:

“…and which would exude neither lead nor blood in the final analysis, but a paste, like resin, with which to bind the fossil record…”

Word-gasps like this appear throughout, delivering precise incontrovertible truths:

“…welfare families looking for a temporary symbol of life eternal in a desert made of their own choices…”

The universe is alive, alive as this passage:

“The myth I have chosen to explain myself rests in marble and oil: One incontrovertible at its final arrival, the other capable of separation into terraces, an archaeological rendering of lime and flavor.”

Shudderingly real and precise word-bursts, as:

“…the blood spot in an egg that the rabbis cut away; if no human sees it then it does not occur…”

I can’t find adequate words for this next, but in one line it says what most take reams to explain:

“A tree is not a dead thing, but slowed, decelerated, as if an inmate of time, a particular date. September was my birthday, and the arrangements of the room were all about escape…”

This reflects Flannery O’Connor’s belief in the fallen nature of mankind, put more precisely:

“…the tendency toward untidy dissolution we are all born with…”

And lastly: the theme of continual transformation central to this book is described as:

“But I had moved on to another god or perhaps just another demi-drama and I was element, no longer apostle, having been charred, and made hollow.”

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