22 March 2013

brief review: "the lady missionary" by gail dendy

Kwela Books (2007)
Gail Dendy is, without a doubt, one of my favorite poets. Period. Her work is deeply affecting and both quietly powerful and often subtly surprising. And yet...

And yet I never fully warmed to her 2007 collection, The Lady Missionary.

I'm not convinced I know why but I have an idea. There are many, many personas in the collection -- as well as a light sprinkling of surrealism (or so it seems) -- and yet Dendy's voice is, to my ear, so distinctive that I could never fully embrace what the page presented to me.

Am I sure of that? No, not at all. And it's a collection that both will and deserves re-visiting. But in the moment, in the reading, I felt at least that I wanted something more. Or, arguably, something less of the Dendy I love and more of these others I was so... unsure of.

All that said, the best poems still sparkle and strike. Gently and deep. Among them are the title poem, "The Lady Missionary", and poems such as "Athlete" and "A Late Season". The two latter poems I have tried my hand at reading...

And even in doing so, I still hear her voice. Would rather hear her voice than mine. Which I'd still argue you'd do well to listen for in this collection.

You can also read a brief interview with Dendy on the collection's initial release here and read another brief review (with excerpts) of the collection here.

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