01 January 2011

Crazy Jane by Pat Falk

Crazy Jane
Plain View Press
Perfect bound, 95 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-891386-95-4

Link to Purchase


Reviewed by Moira Richards
I first encountered Crazy Jane in Pat Falk’s memoir/treatise on poetics, It Happens As We Speak, in which she reveals that she shares the middle name, Jane, and a certain amount of history with a young woman who died an horrific and bloody abortion-related death. She writes there too, that
Jane has been the identity I’ve denied, the spirit buried, the vision and power distrusted.
And later,
As a woman-poet, com-posing, or putting together words, sounds, music, language, perceptions, I need to be able to imagine wholeness, to feel empowered, to live without threat. I need to reclaim my imagination, to find that voice that so clearly and with such authority said…

So, opening Crazy Jane, I felt with some anticipation that I might learn to know this elusive, buried, woman a whole lot better. The poems in the collection are grouped into four untitled sections; the first comprises twenty explorations of loss and horror and suffering and opens with a scene of child birth:
she won’t stop screaming
the air she breathes is red
the air she breathes is

blue
- “Lifeline”
 
It teases at the edges of the tragedy of that other Jane…
a blast, the shattering of lives,
a shattering distinctly etched
but only a reminder:
I never saw the real thing
but see it now on everything that’s real.

Difficult to focus, to feel.
To piece metallic shards into a whole.
To feel beyond a fragmentary fear
“On the Beach”

… and stares down her haunting of the narrator’s psyche:
For too long I have carried
you inside me, color and substance
of lead, burden of darkness and dawn.


- “Crazy Jane”

The second section’s poetry seems to write a rebellion, a wanting to be free of the sorrows, the baggage of the first:
from bondage into breath—
I need to learn to love and lose
the smallest

 grain of sand,
of marrow, root and bone,
an opening, a home.


- “Hidden Lake”

And the poems hint at the possibility that the narrator can indeed re-invent herself, begin to imagine her own wholeness:
 the warm wind passes through me like
another language
stunned    I begin the work of life


- “Heat”

But, as in any good novel, things get worse before they get better and the nine-part “Edenic Sequence” is cold, chilling and suggests the narrator might just empower, protect herself, by retreating – and by swapping vulnerability for a ‘feeling-less’ type of strength.
And there is a certain allure to this kind of cold, implacable powerfulness which the poet conveys starkly and seductively:
something harder than cocoon
has grown around me
thicker than an egg-shell


  today is a day of ice—brilliant,
 sure and strong

 …
 this could also be a river      this
 could also be a heart closed long enough

 to know the beauty of winter
 and stillness and ice 


- “Edenic Sequence”

Now the book has become a page-turner! Will crazy Jane become the Ice Queen – authoritative, free of threat… frozen… no music, no sounds, no imagination? No… the words of the last short section of the book are crafted into poetry of hope, optimism and joy in living: 
A searing rod or root keeps re-entering
my flesh
my language is my body I am
very much alive
.


- “What She Knows”

And, I think, Jane ultimately exorcises her Crazy Jane. Or perhaps the two Janes are reconciled in some way? Perhaps merged into one now-complete, now-harmonious whole?
                                      … I am
taken to a place

where walls and time my fear of love
my fear of you are crushed
in the tearing wind.


- “Blue Night”

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