THE MADELEINE POEMS
What do poets and artists aspire to alike if not freedom? And, among its many slogans, trappings and avatars — political, spiritual, self-serving, etc. — what's more benign and enviable than freedom of imagination? Enough rhetorical questions. Paul Legault's charming and gorgeous The Madeleine Poems,
published this year by Omnidawn and selected by Ann Lauterbach for the Omnidawn Poetry Prize, is a tour-de-force in seeing the building blocks of poetry again: newly, freshly, sweetly. Madeleine, the eponymous persona of this book and its many zany titles, is precisely that: Imagination Gone Wild. The table of contents is itself a menu poem that boasts of the handsome insides: Madeleine as the Homosexuals, Madeleine as James Dean and the Whale, Madeleine as Lice, Madeleine as Portrait of Walt Whitman as Gertrude Stein as a Stripper, Madeleine as Stone, What is to Die of You?,Madeleine as Ode to a Nightingale. Within every poem and page, Legault's silky and silly phrases restore language to its devious childhood: "Woodsnail, breathe for me," "No, grass window. / No, grass window. Go from it—"; "WHALE'S-HEART: (the size of a train compartment) WOOMP." Thankfully, this is a poet who knows poetry is not only form or free play, sheer pleasure or knotty wisdom, high camp or earnest, feeling-first or cerebral. Like Madeleine, it's all of them. Many of us go farther, begins the Dickinson epigram in this first book. When reading The Madeleine Poems, let the reader hereby be counted as one of those delightful many.
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