I just had the pleasure of reading fellow RR member Marilyn Kallet's fine book, Circe, After Hours. With this book, we find ourselves in the presence of a modern day Circe, a many- faceted, deeply nuanced singer of songs. Like the late great Odetta, she is not afraid of turning taboos inside out, whether it’s phone sex (Trout), or post-menopausal crushes (It Can’t Happen), or her own youthful pretensions (Great Poet). She embraces all experience, and shows us what it means to be mortal.
A deep and broad intellectual scope informs the poet’s beautifully shaped cadences. Command of craft and ease with both colloquial and formal utterance marks the work. She plays with the nonce form, and pantoums, and makes free-verse narratives her own with her edgy, outspoken diction. Sometimes the twist that makes a subject new includes experimental touches as in “Where Identity Doesn’t Rest,” reminiscent of Brenda Hillman’s style.
Kallet draws on a deep well of literary and historical knowledge, as she travels from the bantering opening poems, such as “No Makeup” --
I'll have to rely on poetry,
And how, at fifty, I love
in my face and lines,
and in your hands, dear reader.
---to the reverent poems about the Holocaust in the section called “Breathing Daughters.”
These poems are passionate: contradictions cohere in a space where lessons surface in dreams (Circe, Did You?), loss does not mean giving up or in (Out of Silence, for Sister Wendy) and melancholy is cast in unexpected images (Jealous). The book’s three sections connect geography, history, autobiography, and experience in a way that teaches us how to live now. This is a wise collection, not to be missed.