Dorothea Lasky‘s Rome (Liveright, 2014) is a collection that will catch you off guard. Lasky lures the reader in with familiar language and imagery only to have them suddenly realize they’ve been brought to room where the walls wobble and collapse, eternally revealing darker passageways.
She is undoubtedly a language poet but also one who sees language as a roadblock. The communication is in the sound. Just as with Hemingway, words are merely an entry point to meaning. Stripped of even punctuation, these lines hurl themselves at the reader.
Do not take this economy of language as simplicity. Within it are the layers of desire, grief, betrayal, and rage. Lasky’s speakers embody everything that is human yet alien, familiar and foreign. Emboldened by their own savage humanity, they assert themselves into landscapes and consciousness.
But this is not easily won– Lasky lets us into her process, revision, and search for obsession. If she cannot lose herself in the poem then she will not offer it up to the world.
When at sixty it might hit you
What you’ve given up
When your sentimental heart
Might let its hair down and see
The sun for the first time
When you pick up this book, read the lines aloud, impose your will on them, and see where they take you.