Emerson argued that one’s body belongs to the Not me rather than the Me, and Whitman countered that our identities derive from our bodies. These opposing views define the two poles of Lisa Russ Spaar’s bravely elaborated ambivalence. Like Whitman she makes herself a poet of the soul by also making herself a poet of the body, but like Emerson, or Plotinus before him, she acknowledges estrangement from, as well as a desire to escape altogether, the demands, disappointments, and frankly presented details of her body. In exploring the uneasy features of her vision, this abundantly talented poet most often turns to images of children, fair tales, music, and her own struggles with anorexia. But whatever the images, these memorable poems frequently echo the self-defining protest of Jan Eyre, the patron saint of Glass Town: “I have/ as much soul as you—and full as much heart!” To enter Lisa Russ Spaar’s otherworldly world, a world created not just by the original images she chooses but also by her skillful handling of line, syntax, diction, and sound, is to realize that she probably has much more of both than most of us. High recommended.
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