Life as IT. Daneen Wardrop. The Ashland Poetry Press. Ashland University. Ashland, Ohio. 2016.
Winner of the Richard Snyder Publication Prize
Buddhas and Beethovens populate these provocative prose poems like a flutter of rose petals drifting under your precarious passage. Today's book of poetry got carried away with that opening line, but the Buddhas and Beethovens part is true. They are in Life as It along with possible saints and Roy Orbison.
What turned our crank here at Today's book of poetry was Daneen Wardrop's gaze. Once she puts her eye on a subject she renders it new vision. We've all been these places before, we've all listened to Paul McCartney, but never like this. Never the old way again. We've encountered mystics before but Waldrop's modern Carmelite St. Teresa pops in and out of these texts like a Whac-a-mole.
I've read that aphasics watching a presidential debate laugh at every lie, like
snow reads a landscape. It's a watcher's game, laughter is foil crinkling. Must
I give up even my small bit of talk? (I admit it is me, despicable truth of
elegies, whom I miss). Sometimes snow finishes the punchline, I suppose our
bones sparkle inside like that. A friend once told me my mother's
stubbornness kept her alive, told me into her stethoscope. Meticulous sparks
move by standing still in the storm, they look like tell me again. They look like
tell me again, just a little at a time.
Life as It is a book of elegant meditations that are each as crisp as a Sonny Rollins solo, brash with subtle mystery. Wardrop brings her own sense of timing but the beat is clear.
Truth be told Today's book of poetry didn't understand every subtle or saintly clue/cue but Daneen Wardrop writes relentlessly interesting poetry. These compelling little monsters are tight, tight, tight prose poems salted up like a treat you can't stop eating.
Life as It
They say Buddha called many animals to him but not the cat. Surely the story
is lax on this one. Surely no one was watching on this one. After looking a
while at an upward spill of incense smoke the cat disappeared along a mouse-
flicking path. Some Buddhists say it's important for the breath to wander in
the belly. When I see a palette's paint wet and deep with colors I want to kiss
it. How complex what passes for ready. The breath can do what it wants.
Dragons roast meatloaves with their breaths, oxen hump in the fields, snakes
unfinish circles. The cat walks through grassblades strumming.
This morning's read here in the Today's book of poetry offices was organized by Kathryn, our Jr. Editor. She told us she knew exactly how these poems should be read. She had props that included a small but rotund and smiling Buddha. It bore a striking resemblance to the one from the Today's book of poetry garden (which is currently under about four feet of snow).
Daneen Wardrop's Life as It made for an energetic morning read by our cast of miscreants. These poems have their own source of power, they are internally driven, we just get to go along on the ride.
If Never the Why then at Least the How
This dawn, if a stranger stands outside our house, the panes will grow as
stamps, par avion. Windows may settle by noon, but now they wish for sex
straight out of sleep. A cupola of wild geese launches a mansion. He sleeps
turned from me, pang of light on his forehead. Too jealous for coherence, we
spoke last night in interjections, every tooled puncture of his belt slit past
what I can't accept from a silver morning, as a hand finds aqua lines tense at
the back of a knee. Then, what I can accept. The amazing thing about skin,
that it's continuous.
Life as It tasted fresh as new snow. It went down like the coolest, cleanest spring water. Absolutely refreshing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daneen Wardrop has authored two books of poetry, The Odds of Being and Cyclorama, as well as several books of literary history. She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and the Poetry Society of America Robert H. Winner Award. Wardrop teaches American literature at Western Michigan University.
Life as It proves Daneen Wardrop's mastery of voice. In these pieces, the past, present and future coalesce in bright bursts, and, through juxtaposition and accumulation, the connections become ever more compelling, and beautiful, and edgy, and interesting as they unspool. This is poetry of both narrative and musical accomplishments, and a book one won't forget.
- Laura Kasischke, author of The Infinitesimals
These poems are a diary of exquisite attention. Daneen Wardrop's mind is meditative in pacing yet poetic in the way it creates a new way of seeing. "A cupola of wild geese launches a mansion" is equally accurate and miraculous, and just one example of her gentle yet transformative focus. She's adept at mining a moment for what it naturally contains, rather than forcing it into predetermined avenues of feeling or thought. This a poet who possesses that rare human quality - a gracious consciousness.
- Bob Hick, author of Sex
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