LOCKET by CATHERINE DALYCATI PORTER reviews
Locket by Catherine Daly
(Tupelo Press, Dorset, VT, 2005)
Catherine Daly’s Locket is sheathed in gold with black script, the flourish of an L a swooshing swirling metaphor for one particularly troublesome four-letter word. Yes, these are love poems.
Lashed with lust, lush with longing, luscious as a labial-lingual kiss, Daly pulls us through a landscape rippling with heat, bristling with the riddle of that ‘same old song’. These are poems that are as straightforward and unapologetic as they are sweet and circumspect.
Love’s a huge subject. I can’t tell you that Daly has anything new to say about love or its effects of consequence. It’s how she goes about saying it that makes this worth your time, with language that is sharp and clean and smart and funny. Take these lines from the third section of the poem, “Osculate”:
Our two, worth their maximum and minimum,
perambulate, perform. Parabola, ellipsis, ellipses:
I would like to mention discontinuity at this juncture.
It slices our pair from the earth’s mantle.
Out of context, this may seem like gobbledygook, but within these paper walls it makes perfect sense. This poem, in three sections, directly corresponds (in ascending order) to the Roman words for ‘kiss’: Osculum, a greeting, an air kiss; Basium, a direct lip-to-lip kiss between lovers; and Savium, a ‘deep kiss’, known nowadays as ‘french’. Slipped in between these ‘kisses’ are references to mathematics, Jimi Hendrix, and WWII. Now consider that this poem, “Osculate”, uses the word ‘vacillate’ in the penultimate line, and is followed by a poem titled “Oscillate”.These poems are thick with images, references, word-play, making each a rich read. Daly uses language like a child uses blocks: she builds it up to knock it down.
Here is her poem, “Couple”:
“many a slip between cup and lip”
Two tipple tea, tupple, Tippacanoe,
sumptuously sip, sup, supple.
Two pull and tamp
their ample mutual appeal.
Two grasp two apples, oh,
to journey from Tampa to Tupelo.
Two peel their clothes.
They put and place, topple,
tumble, not duplicitous, pillowed, paired,
duplex, circumspect, slumber together.
Dual and singular, nuptial bells peal.
Throughout I have found lines that seem particularly resonant. In the poem “Grain” the narrator states:
My love is a crop circle hoax,
has trampled all my grain.
Such a terrific metaphor for love’s crush, that something thought to be so miraculous and out-of-this-world can be flipped, becoming so real it turns fake, false.
Here is a line that I absolutely love from “American Beauty: Night”:
Comport yourself within this machinery of want.
‘Want’ is just that: a machine propelling us toward--something--that will (hopefully, temporarily) satisfy. But it is a messy, undignified process.
In “Endnotes” there is so much language-play that it almost becomes nonsensical, but it is joyful nonsense.
She scatters her words with Arabic numerals,
Superscript or superior, a supertitled opera,
supernumerary, numinous, superfluous, fluent.
Love may be her always implicit, sometimes explicit, subject, but it is the way she skips and dances around it that makes this book such an engaging read.
In “Footnotes,” on the facing page, there is a line which I think sums it up best:
If the ride’s pleasurable
it can be followed
Locket is a lovesong. If I were to locate one flaw, I would say it is in the seeming predictability of the narrative arc. But that can also be considered an asset. On all levels, Locket is pleasurably riddled and referenced; a reverberating read.
Cati Porter is poet, artist, freelance writer, and editor of the online literary journal, Poemeleon. Her poetry has been featured on kaleidowhirl, Poetry Southeast, Sunspinner, Banyan Review, and Poetry Midwest. She lives in Riverside, California, with her husband and two young sons.