Today's book of poems: Glossolalia. Marita Dachsel. Anvil Press. Vancouver. 2013.
Michael Ondaatje's Collected Works of Billy the Kid did it. Randall Maggs did it with Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems and now Marita Dachsel does it with Glossolalia.
Dachsel so inhabits the characters and time of her story as to make it hyper real. Ondaatje's dusty Billy came alive, Maggs sweaty Terry Sawchuk groans bruises from page to page and every second feels real. Dachsel brings the same sort of vivid, intimate focus, you think you can hear the quiet breathing of these women.
Glossolalia is composed of poetic monologues spoken by the thirty-four polygamous wives of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There are brief passages of doctrine and covenants, a few lists, human ledgers. But the heart of this book comes from the voices Dachsel has given the women. Touching, tough, tender, funny, selfish, hostile, Dachsel has given these women real voices as they discuss, in a very human way, what it means to be a woman and a wife.
Olive Grey Frost
How to get rid of bed bugs:
1. Put a drop of mercury in a tumbler.
2. Add the white of two eggs.
3. Mix together.
4. Apply to bed with a feather.
Look at this. Bites
up & down my body.
Didn't know what they were
until one of the Sisters pulled me aside.
Wish the others had the sense
to tell me at the beginning, Sure,
there was plenty to remember,
but something practical
would have been much appreciated.
Dachsel has been nominated for the Robert Kroetsch Award for Innovative Poetry (and how apt is that, you can see the positive influence of Kroetsch all over this fine book - and that is a good thing). She has also been nominated for the ReLit Prize. Neither of these nominations will come as any surprise to those who've read Marita Dachsel.
Glossolalia is simply riveting, it is hauntingly sad, it is a clear and articulate indictment of patriarchy and religion. Joseph Smith's shadow hangs over this book but each of the women shine through his dark cloud, and they are finally given voice in a reversal of the standard history.
If I had a rating system this book would get all my stars.
ps: Glossolalia - to speak in tongues.