Friday, January 20, 2006
Mauled Illusionist. Jean Monahan. ( Orchises Press. PO BOX 20602 Alexandria, VA. ) 22320 $15
I first read Jean Monahan’s poems in “The South End News,” a community newspaper in Boston, Mass. I was impressed with her work, and later a poem of hers appeared in one of the first issues of “Ibbetson Street.” Recently I booked her to read in the “Newton Free Library Poetry Series,” in the Fall of 2006. And later Monahan sent me her new collection of poems: “Mauled Illusionist.” After selectively reading it, I was again reminded of why I chose her to read in the series. Her poetry has a sense of play, it slowly draws the reader in, and goes deep; behind the obscuring scrim of everyday life. In a very clever poem: “ Humpty Dumpty,” the poet taps into the thoughts of the fairytale character as he sits on his tenuous perch, and gets to some larger truths: “ Though I straddle a wall between hope/ and sorrow, I find a kind of peace/ between them. / The fragile/ must be above it all, / self-contained, potential / cracked open by surprise – and life -/ a lake within herself, a sun,/ The shell is delicate, but it will mend./ Nothing in this garden has not been broken./ Even the promises of Kings.” In the poem “Mauled Illusionist Goes Home,” Monahan writes of the plight of the trainer and illusionist Roy Horn, who was mauled by his own tiger. The poet turns the table on the trainer and explores the illusions he creates for the audience, and the illusions we all create for ourselves: “ I was hauled/ from the glittering ring,/ beaten at my own game, tamed./ Offstage /I healed/ myself, away from the crowds/ who passed to close and loud, / heart-in-mouth / for my throat in the maw,/ my whip on the back/ of what we feed and love and pretend / loves us back.
Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update/ Somerville, Mass./ Jan. 2006