23 November 2011

the criticaster: "Back in the Benighted Kingdom" by Isobel Dixon

Let's start first with the verse...
"Back in the Benighted Kingdom"

I'm sorry to see
my mosquito bumps fade:
the love bites of a continent,
marks of its hot embrace.

If anything is dark
it's this damp island
with its sluggish days,
its quieter, subtler ways
of drawing blood.
 By Isobel Dixon [author's website]
Dixon's turn in the poem above is a deft one: conjuring the stereotypes of much of the world when it comes to ones Africa (because, really, does it matter what "Africa" is yours, historically and popularly leveled as it is?) and bouncing off them and into her own benighted kingdom. There's no disavowal, there's no protesting too much (who, after all would believe you? and why foreswear a reality for a fantasy, after all? it is not for the poet to construct a whole world but, instead, as wished, flash a vision); instead there's an embrace and a difference only in adjectives that stands to highlight an alternate reality, her other life, and a way for the poet to bridge two worlds. In this compression and conflation, in this most economical of equations, is real pleasure. And perhaps a glimmer of understanding.
An editorial aside about the criticaster: apr (usa) has been much more "news" than "views" of late, particularly with the move into Facebook. To begin to tip the balance back a bit I'll be publishing an occasional reflection on a recently read poem. Dixon's is the first. But won't be the last. And for those of you curious about the name, it's not accidental...

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