GENEVIEVE KAPLAN Reviews
from Idylls & Rushes by Susana Gardner
(Dusie Press, 2011)
The cover of from Idylls & Rushes is literally the torn title page from a copy of Colette’s The Vagabond, and the pages of Susana Gardner’s small chapbook are glued into that cover with ripped out pages from Colette’s novel. Physically from Idylls & Rushes is a small book that owes its form to a larger one. Is Gardner’s text, too, from Colette? The scanned cover of the Dusie Press e-copy, here http://www.dusie.org/Gardner%20idylls&rushes.pdf , implies some type of borrowing or poetic erasure, and the language of Gardner’s poems sounds Colettian. Certainly Gardner’s lines “in short preludes / among violets&blues, I represent / awakening--frantic chatter, / trembling” evoke the moods of Collette’s passage “Dazzled, I enter into the yellow kingdom…We are crossing the conflagration, league and leagues of gorse in flower, wasted riches which rebuff even goats, and where butterflies, made languorous by the warm scent like half-ripe peaches and pepper, flutter about with torn wings” (215). The “false common-place friends” and “vile public” that populate Gardner’s chapbook may be the same crowd Collette’s heroine Renée performs for in The Vagabond, but it is difficult to know for sure.
from Idylls & Rushes consists of eighteen short poems of 4-6 lines, each titled “(one).” The poems are delicate, they are tender, they are fast, they use italics. They exhibit “whimsy” and “spirit my high-flimsy till dawn / slightly drunk,” “pouring fourth rhythm” and carrying readers forward with charm and rhyme. But Gardner’s poems are also “urgent, / brutal. Awkward,” filled with “ironical caresses” and “fever frantic rebels.” There are “hypnotized idyll orgies” and “delicate fétèd idyll-exculpated / faults” that cannot be escaped. “In spite of myself,” Gardner writes, “I hear / the fusses and the idylls. The hush- / hush static in my ears.”
In this pocket-sized chapbook, readers too find themselves immersed within “the tarnished / sun’s wild tempering” and the “daylight [that] bounds after me in / rushes.” The constant velocity and insistency of these poems is engrossing. Even as Gardner’s work may discomfort in an “irksome mental fizzle” when we attempt to apply logic or question the origin, creation, or progression of the poems here, we have to agree: “Oh, irritable / rushes – come now, come” – we want to read this work.
Genevieve Kaplan is the author of In the ice house (Red Hen Press, 2011), winner of the A Room of Her Own Foundation's poetry publication prize, and settings for these scenes (Convulsive Editions, 2013), a chapbook of continual erasures. She lives in southern California and edits the Toad Press International chapbook series, publishing contemporary translations of poetry and prose.