Mermaids in the Basement



Review by g emil reutter


There is a Seinfeld episode where the need for books and bookshelves are questioned by Seinfeld. His theory is once a book is read why go back to it? Carolyn Kizer is one argument against Seinfeld. She is a poet of passion, a lover of life, a believer in feminism. Ms. Kizer passed away in 2014 yet here in 2016 while searching our bookshelves I find, Mermaids in the Basement, published in 1984.
There is much to be learned when revisiting a collection poems, one may see something they did not the first time around or glean a new impression of the poet. Kizer however has always been Kizer. The poems are simply well crafted, brimming with passion that poets today should have a look at. It is good to visit a master of the craft.
The first stanza of For My Daughter is a perfect example:
It was lingering summer
when you announced your birth,
as you were rapt in me,
rapt in a field-flower haze
of those last, listless days
the water burst
in a summer storm:
Like Beethoven
Your bold overture began.
The poem, Bitch, offers an inner look to a strong woman with a hurt inside. She meets an old lover and is cordial as her inner bitch starts to growl. Yet by the end of the poem she maintains the cool exterior as the interior descends into the hurt. It’s just that she remembers how she came running/ Each evening, when she heard his step; How she lay at his feet and looked up adoringly/ Though he was absorbed in his paper;/ or, bored with her devotion, ordered her to the kitchen/ Until he was ready to play… …. Than the casual cruelties, the ultimate dismissal.
In the second stanza of Pro Femina she connects directly with her reader:
While men have politely debated free will, we have howled for it.
Howl still, pacing the centuries, tragedy heroines.
Some who sat quietly in the corner with their embroidery
Were Defarges, stabbing the wool with the names of their ancient
Oppressors, who ruled by the divine right of the male—
I’m impatient of interruptions! I’m aware there were millions
Of mutes for every Saint Joan or sainted Jane Austen,
Who, vague-eyed, and acquiescent, worshiped God as man.
I’m not concerned with those cabbageheads, not truly feminine.
But neutered by labor. I mean real women, like you and like me.
Radical Kizer? I think not, Realist Kizer, yes! Re-visit Mermaids in the Basement, you will enjoy. You can find the book here:
As far as Seinfeld and his contention one not need save books, just remember, when the bad people come to power the first thing they do is burn books. There is a reason for that.
g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here: About g emil reutter

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