Red Hen Press, a small nonprofit press in Los Angeles, continues to expand its poetry list with the publication of Diane Wald’s first full-length collection. (Wald’s chapbook publications include My Hat That Was Dreaming from White Fields Press and Double Mirror from Runaway Spoon Press.) The poems in Lucid Suitcase are delicate, sophisticated lyrics that hang together by virtue of their objects and commanding use of color: “I saw you were wearing green / boxy / then dream of the boxy green car”; “The sky / is the color / of a ripe / Concord grape. The road’s / white/ at this hour and / painful.” Wald’s poetic is strikingly visual—and her electronic chapbook inspired by the titles of artworks by Jean Debuffet is featured on the online poetry magazine Mudlark.
Softness of tone and transition distinguish the poems from clunky, academic machinations or heavy, cathartic narration: “Here is the airplane arriving through wind and rain / precisely on time.” Throughout the book’s prose poems and left justified lyrics, words are arranged on the page, not scored according to their music. Wald builds the poems to enable the reader to reproduce her original vision, or slippage: “Her I iron the blue tablecloth. / The red is upstairs.” Symbolic use of vocabulary, dull words (heave, cloud, moon, sea), but doesn’t mean that the poet has been enchanted away from performing her writing job. She writes “I could see / it was just a paper / death.” She translates her observations into lively, memorable poems.
Review by Catherine Daly