Today's book of poetry: Enter The Raccoon. Beatriz Hausner. Book Thug. Toronto, Ontario. 2012.
Beatriz Hausner's Enter The Raccoon echoes back to Marion Engel's novel Bear from the 1970's. In Bear the heroine carries on a romantic relationship with a black bear. Hausner has replaced the bear with a raccoon, but not just any raccoon, THE Raccoon. Enter The Raccoon is basically a dialogue between the raccoon and his female, human lover.
If that first paragraph gives you pause, take heart, there is a cavalcade of good reasons to read Enter The Raccoon. At first blush all descriptions of these poems have to accept bestiality as a given. In a world where there are human sized raccoons with mechanical hands, almost anything is possible.
What is totally unexpected (what could be unexpected after human sized raccoons with electronic hands?), is that the reader is drawn in and conclusively accepts this conceit before finishing the first poem.
And, just now, into my study has walked a human-sized raccoon. He
greets me and seems kind, despite the threatening teeth. I welcome
him, mostly because he will provide warmth for the next few hours. It
remains to be seen how long he can stay seated in the uncomfortable
wicker chair I have set in the corner, the one covered with the elegant
Oaxaca weaving, meant to be worn as a skirt by women in the Mixtec
region. His breathing is distracting, perhaps because, as he has just in-
informed me, he is suffering from an uneven heartbeat, wrought, as it is,
by the insertion of an extraneous valve into one of the chambers of his
heart. I tell him that these procedures are quite common nowadays. He
seems tired, worn out. Perhaps Raccoon is simply echoing my own state
of mind. Perhaps not. It's hard to say.
Assuming there is no real human sized raccoon we can safely figure that he is an allegorical figure, but the concept works because Hausner gives Raccoon an animated intellect. He mulls over everything from the origins of joy to the joy of Stevie Wonder, the depths of despair and the prophetic dark under-lay in the music of Amy Winehouse.
Raccoon is one smart cat. The following are two of his monologues. The book is made of up a dialogue between Raccoon and the lover, it takes place on alternate/facing pages.
In an age ruled by the speedy transfer of ideas and information, a
feeling, best described as slowness, ennui, overtakes one as the middle
years invade the bones. Perhaps ennui has always been there, quietly
sleeping inside the heart, like a warning against excessive confidence,
urging one to doubt, to question. Is ennui the flipside of vivacious-
ness? Is it another, less energetic way of being somewhat happy?
Ennui was the emotion of Decadents, as if this emotion somehow
conjured that yellowish light that suffuses the images of fin de siecle
photographs. The Twentieth Century avant garde was, by contrast,
intensely energetic, its confidence firmly planted in the new struct-
ures and forms borne of a mind rattled to its core by the violence of
modern war, hopeful its ideas could be used to change the world.
"Now in the corner of a hallway there was a saucer of milk for the cat.
"Milk is for the pussy, isn't it?" said Simone. "Do you dare me to sit in
"I dare you," I answered, almost breathless. The day was extremely
hot. Simone put the saucer on a small bench, planted herself before
me, and with her eyes fixed on me, she sat down without my being
able to see her burning buttocks under the skirt, dipping into the cool
milk. The blood shot to me head, and I stood before her awhile, im-
mobile and trembling, as she eyed my stiff cock bulging in my pants.
Then I lay down at her feet without her stirring, and for the first time,
I saw her "pink and dark" flesh cooling in the white milk. We re-
mained motionless, on and on, both of us equally overwhelmed...
-From Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye
(translated by Joachim Neugroshel)
Beatriz Hausner's Enter The Raccoon is raucous but never ribald and it is always entertaining. Hard to believe you might want to take advice from a very large raccoon, but Raccoon speaks volumes in this beautiful little book.