Elizabeth Treadwell

Elizabeth Fodaski
Fracas
Krupskaya (P.O. Box 420249, San Francisco, CA  94142-0249), 1999, 78 pp., $9
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Her work with the field, received and sustained and derailed, of vocabulary, is perhaps my favorite thing about these works. The consideration of the word.

The word(s) as a bridge appear(s) in epistolary fashion sometimes, or in the clothing of gossip: "Someone told me recently he'd really be interested in seeing what I do, but he never really understood poetry or liked it very much. I told him to fuck off." (p. 15) In his review in a recent issue of The Poetry Project Newsletter, Edmund Berrigan said of these (& other) lines "there's a constant push for empowerment, not to be aggressive, but to be able to do what one wants with respect." I think this is apt, but would add that these lines strike me as unapologetically aggressive in the sense of defending poetry, the self, and feminine construction. It's also funny and a condensed political/aesthetic argument. I mean, how fabulous to see the line "I told him to fuck off" in the work of an elegantly controverting poet.

But hers is not a book limited to or by aggression. There are many folding inquiries which wind round and round, leaving the poems like traces of trackings; not leaving the poet herself out of the questioning, or as merely an interrupter of — or, for that matter, a player in — the constant inscription of language on the world or the mind. (So in a sense the poet herself is not letting herself be simply able "to do what one wants with respect," unless we take that to mean, with the poet's respect for his/her inherited and changeable language.)

Mary is not a woman.
A woman is a word and the being of your word is a moment
the flower is a word and the naming is a moment.
     (p. 42)

Who is the "your" and who is naming?  She seems to speak to herself, to the dictionary, to religious and literary traditions all at once.

What would it mean to desire a woman in writing?
Homunculus, homunculi.
There is a man in my head and he became my consciousness.
     (p. 42)

what of the figure that resists the name of your naming?
.....
mapped like a river
in a rift and,
shifting, slow
you are being left behind.
by no fraud but the passing
of a moment.
AND WHERE DID IT COME FROM?"
     (p.44)

The last line is repeated many times in the section "Etymologies." She is a house detective, detecting the currents of the houses of language, mapping and breaking the maps at the same time. Here in my query of hers I am reminded of maps which were copied from other maps from other maps, back to the one that was incorrect to begin with. So where is the hook-up to the "real," shifty river or city? Or figure? Or question? In a way the poet here is silent, or doing the work of silence, that is, listening. Listening aggressively perhaps.

(Or: her book, like the dictionary or the Bible or the world, or any strong, alive thing, resists the name of my naming.)

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