Cover image for Louise in love : poems
Louise in love : poems
Bang, Mary Jo.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press ; [Berkeley, Calif.] : Distributed by Publishers Group West, 2001.
Physical Description:
xii, 81 pages ; 21 cm
Format :


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PS3552.A47546 L68 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this stunning new collection of poems, Mary Jo Bang jettisons the reader into the dreamlike world of Louise, a woman in love. With language delicate, smooth, and wryly funny, Louise is on a voyage without destination, traveling with a cast of enigmatic others, including her lover, Ham. Louise is as musical as she is mysterious and the reader is invited to listen. In her world, anything goes, provided it is breathtaking. Bang, whose first collection was the prize-winning Apology for Want,both parodies and pays homage to the lyric tradition, borrowing its lush music and dramatic structure to give new voice to the old concerns of the late Romantic poets. Louise in Love is a dramatic postmodern verse-novel with an eloquent free-floating narration. The poems, rife with literary allusion, take journeys to distant lands. And, like anyone on a voyage without a destination, they are endlessly questioning of the enigmatic world around them.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Bang, author of the prize-winning Apology for Want (1996), unveils an enrapturing series of poems about a woman named Louise; Ham, the man she's sweet on; her sister, Lydia; Ham's brother; and a child. Amorphous characters, they are figments born of romanticism and figures out of paintings or film, yet Louise, who is more mood and musings than body, is driven into a fugue state by desire. These sly, subtly narrative poems manage to be both languid and epigrammatic, sensual and ironic as Bang conjures a diaphanous yet edgy realm in which Louise and her companions travel by train and motorcar to mansions and mausoleums, lakes and rivers, beaches and mountains, perhaps for real, perhaps in their dreams. Bang pays tribute to Keats and Woolf in scenes of emotional and physical opulence that are underpinned by reflections on death, just as flesh covers bone. Her language is musical; her consonance consummate; and the depth and complexity of her thoughts take on different configurations with each rereading of these playful yet serious, coy yet passionate poems. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is not a book about silent screen star Louise Brooks, despite her photo on the book's cover, seeming references to the notoriously alcoholic Brooks's many lost weekends, and persistent echoes of the 1920s throughout. Bang's (Apology for Want) "dramatis personae" in these serial poems include, among many others, Louise; her sister, Louise; her lover, Ham; and Ham's brother, Charles. Nothing much happens, but sensibilities are conveyed with accurate emotions and a liberally deployed knowledge of the arts. Like many of the louche denizens of Brooks's era, Bang's characters can overdo the alliteration and borrowing of musicality of foreign languages, whether French or Italian: "Louise dreamed a clowder of cats was eating yesterday's dinner.../ December, a drear pentimentoÄunveiling the mouth...." The sardonic "Here's a Fine Word: Prettiplease" has some of the world-weary tone of Jean Rhys and Dorothy Parker, but the dominant influence here may be John Berryman's Henry, who harkened back in a similarly multi-vocal fashion. And Louise's problems in her love affair with Ham (along with their erotic doubles) point to a wry gay subtext … la Djuna Barnes. While some readers will find the clowder of characters and their Edward Gorey-like diction cloying, others will delight in Bang's unsparing ("Diaphragmatic heaving. Base emetic act./ The puky little sun glowing to a glare. Puissance.") time-channeling. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Bang's second collection will try many patient readers with its surface of brilliant word play teased by a hint of narrative. The list of characters include Louise, a young woman in love; her sister, Lydia; her lover, Ham Gorden; his brother, Charles Gorden; and a child named Isabella, suggesting a graspable plot. But Louise's love voyage from innocence to experience is decidedly nonlinear. If you can approach this kind of writing with an open mind, you will be enchanted by some of the dcor, including the retro-style courtship of Louise and Ham, the literary allusions (those that you catch, of course), and the brilliant, sonorous juxtapositions: "The wrists tiny veinlets sunk/ while gravity's gooseherd gathered the minion capillaries." Bang can't stop inventing and accumulating these gems; from "a clowder of cats" to "a dart in the eye of Ifdom," brief moments congeal, though not with any clear destination in mind. There are only fragments of sex, ennui, Keats, and Virginia Woolf, in "a fantastic sea where nothing but nothing can save us." By the end, Bang runs the risk of losing her readers, but she seems to be having too good a time to care. For academic collections.DEllen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine LLP Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One ECLIPSED The crimped beige of a book, turned-down corner. The way an eclipse begins with the moon denting the sun's liquid disk, taking a first bit then more and more and. Leaving a regal rim, a dim spared portion, a shiver. How cold she was as the cloud covered the cuckoo-land, birds batting the tree fringe. Fitful caprice. Foolish, yes, they were, those birds, but clever too. A nostrum of patterning rain had fallen beforehand ceding the hibiscus buds bundled and in disarray. In the news p. Nostradamic foretelling of retinal damage written in novelese. Wasn't the skeptic invented to nourish an interest in science? Yes. The puma swallows the sun, only to spit it back out. Diaphragmatic heaving. Base emetic act. The puky little sun glowing to a glare. Puissance. One's own right hand teaching one to look, to see, to leap upon some notional premise. Louise placed the next-to-night glasses on the table. It is, she said, so over. But it wasn't. Specters they would be rooted eighty-two years in the same spot waiting for another and then an offhand remark and one by one (which is the way death takes us, he said) they took their shadows and went out of the garden and into the house. SHE COULDN'T SING AT ALL, AT ALL Louise said. No subtle cadences capturing birdnote nor the melancholic "My Love Is in a Light Attire." She could speak well enough but to sing was to vivisect the ear's dear pleasure desired. Ham suggested canasta or a hike to a hillock. The other reminded no night-over camping--Lydia was soundly allergic to that. Charles Gordon proposed a boat ride to a big, big lake and a stroll in the Parc d'Avenir. They heard an April angelus tolling its sixes, a sure sign that the winter demon was down. It was now a matter of waiting for the haughty naughty beguilement of warmth. They were standing on the balcony when Louise was tossed not a rose or two with flayed edges but an entire bouquet of hibiscus (a horde of bishops huddling at the heart of each). Below them, a boy sweeping-- sheep, sheep, sheep --looked up and souffled Lydia a kiss. Oh, it would be a good day, wontn't it? Life flung riverward and on and on the baby boat floating, spinning in the hope current, someone singing "Sometimes a bun, sometimes only a     biscuit." THE DOG BARK Louise peered into the corner of the cabinet of fossilized delights: mandragon manikin, a dried mermaid, assorted dog barks of crass appetites. It was six and dark early. Don't forget numbers, Ham said, are only examples: one and two with their sterile marriage, three with its tattooed face. That year the gifts were lustrous: a bear with the head of a horse, small nipples, flowers in its ears. Louise said, Who doesn't love the sound of scissor snips and free-for-all terms of endearment? The dog, they named Lucky To Be Alive, and refused to let it be altered. BELLE VUE Gorgeous that pillar, that post--both spiraled with lashes of laurel. And between the two, four couples fashioned past fumble. The party wanted the night sand to swallow their prints so they drove to the beach. Back home, the filament blinked in the lamp by which Louise sat reading a book about sleep. Six knobs controlled the night but the day, the day, she read, was rudderless, an eggbreak knowing no bounds but becoming an edgeless eye fluttering open at the sound of a siren, a peony shaken--each petal a shower of instant truths. Wake up. One wanted to hear the sky--a river turned sidewise. The wrist's tiny veinlets sunk while gravity's gooseherd gathered the minion capillaries. Wake up, wake up. The filament flickered again, a forecast for certain. Sunrise would be ... riddled with sound. At irregular intervals, rain. The same letters one day would read Charlotte; Charcot, the next; and then charcuterie. Coincidence. A grid over every window erased by the lack of light. In the everworld of art, even the lettuces' red leaves stayed suspended between dissolves. Eye and idea, a rope at the waist. She was held-- not by the text, but by the pretty pictures. THE STAR'S WHOLE SECRET Did she drink tea? Yes, please. And after, the halo of a glass gone. A taxi appeared out of elsewhere. Five constellations, Louise said, but only two bright stars among them. Soon, Ham said, the whale will reach the knot of the fisherman's net; the moon will have its face in the water. And we'll all feel the fury of having been used up in maelstrom and splendor. Mother did say, Louise said, try to be popular, pretty, and charming. Try to make others feel clever. Without fear, what are we? the other asked. The will, said Louise. The mill moth and the lavish wick, breathless in the remnant of a fire. KISS, KISS, SAID LOUISE, BY WAY OF A PAY PHONE To the other who'd been left behind. The city was unlucky in cloudy and chance of. Routing the enemy, following a route. What does it mean, Mary Louise, that the mall in Midcreek will open in May? They were getting away to nature, conveyance as a form of diffidence. Every avenue, said Ham, still ends at perception. There is a point, said Louise, when one will act or won't even know what she's missed. She was wearing a wig and suit of blue serge and looked somewhat like that section of a symphony written in the alphabet soup of C and B-neath. The road was a ribbon on the bright canyon bed. Clever twin, said Louise, to those who know how to follow a scheme that avoids the end of the senses before there can be a begun. She saw: a blue car leaving ... at three; a blue car returning at four; an odd-looking man leaning against an ornamental Japanese pine. They stopped at the house on the top of the hill, lit like a candle-house cake. I hope, Ham said, there's a fire station deep in this forest. Forest? What forest? she said. Don't you see-- it's a fantastic sea where nothing but nothing can save us. THE DIARY OF A LOST GIRL Four diphtheria deaths, then fire, now five named lakes with tranquil looks. Yet rampantly mad. A lunatic shriek from a ruffian child. One oar wrestled a mob of shore fringe, another, the wet underbirth. And madness, was it afflicted by demons? Or stricken of God? Or vision, thrown on an empty mirror, and there you were? Later, upstairs--the lakes packed away in pearly cases, the coppery spin of a high skyward arrayed against a leaded window--the chiasmic question recurred. She recalled shy little lessons from a girl named Renee on the unattainable freedoms of the flesh. In the dining room, they would crumple over the table like paper angels if anyone raised an eyebrow. Otherwise, they leaned against scenery--looking down at their Bonniedale shoes as if they were in love with nothing else. Copyright © 2001 Mary Jo Bang. All rights reserved.