Rebecca Morgan Frank (Poetry) | Chicago, IL
Press & Reviews
Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country
“So much happens in these intensely lyrical poems, accompanied by such subtle music and profound, often witty, meditations on love, loneliness, rapture and mortality. This is a beautiful book, one that asks us to see the everyday world anew, and discover in it marvelous strangeness.”
The Spokes of Venus
I don’t think I’ve read a book as unapologetically metaphysical as The Spokes of Venus since Heather McHugh’s early work. One feels everywhere in these poems the force of Morgan Frank’s insistent looking, tensile, witty, fiercely cool in its appraisals: “The truth is that there’s nothing in the room but us.” Right, there we are—dead center. Frank gets it, totally: the centripetal forces that whirl us there are awesome.
Astronomer Percival Lowell saw “spokes” on the planet Venus that proved to be a reflection of his own eye. The gorgeously made poems in The Spokes of Venus suggest the self-reflexivity of the beholder and the nuances of perception: the slippage between object and viewer — whether the site of scrutiny is planet or painting. The process of experiencing the world deeply, of venturing beyond the literal, beneath the surface, becomes a form of love in these brilliant meditations on process and creativity. Whether the object is painting or dance, installations or music, Frank’s elegant, cerebral poems evoke all the senses in richly condensed lines: a syntax that fibrillates with radiant linguistic spokes — insights so fresh that that one can’t help but be amazed and instructed. The austere surfaces of this eloquent work ignite the imagination and entice readers to co-create the text. Ekphrastic art should enrich or extend the work it considers: “A god can see something / that does not yet exist in the world.” Rebecca Morgan Frank’s poems have just that visionary freshness and strength: they share the power of all startlingly beautiful things.
Rebecca Morgan Frank’s dazzling new collection leaps into the world of art making, inspired at first by the 19th century astronomer Percival Lowell’s absurd insistence that he saw, through his own telescope, canals on the planet Venus—what he was seeing was the reflection of his own veinous eye! From this “creative” mistake, Frank moves into poems in conversations with artists living and dead, poems that turn us upside down and shake the reasonable dust of art history out of our pockets. They whirl into their subjects in an irresistible frenzy of language and music.
Little Murders Everywhere
As for me, I was merely an accessory.” In Rebecca Morgan Frank’s remarkable first book, the line that launches a story about feeding an injured raptor morphs hauntingly into ars poetica: “I was the dark room, the leather glove, the rope.” And in between, the countless “little murders” – the road kill, the rodents, the surplus chicks from a factory farm – that keep a red-tailed hawk alive. Captured in this parable are both the ruthless devotion to beauty and the yet-more-ruthless devotion to clear-eyed rendering that make Little Murders Everywhere an extraordinary debut. The elegant formal variations in these poems, the structuring alliterations, the density and precision of the figurative imagination would almost suffice on their own but, wonderfully, they have no need to do so. They add up, as in all true poetry, to a way of seeing.
Rebecca Morgan Frank’s arresting and unflinching poems show what can still be done with the bittersweet stuff of longing that gave the art of the lyric its original reason for being. Everywhere she turns her rapt attention – pensive elegies and laments, gnomic riffs on things lost and found in the naked city, limber sonnets on nettling sins of the spirit and the flesh – she’s in her element, taking the measure of desire in language honed to a glittering edge. “Go ahead, reinvent the wheel,” one mordant poem here begins, and so she does, daring you to see another soul at the white heat with a mind and music all her own.