The Doll Without A Face
In this collection of 46 new poems and revisions, presented consecutively as they were written in 2018-2019, Brett Rutherford leaps from childhood memories of another set of desperately-poor grandparents (“Out-Home Summers”), to a Medieval Annunciation painting, to a battle of the Napoleonic war set in bombarded cemetery, to stories of the gods and heroes of Greece and Norse/Germanic mythology.
Inevitably, a troubled era intrudes on the poet’s writing, in poems that ask a complacent symphony audience, whose children have not disappeared, whom they voted for; in a hex song for thirteen witches planning a beer-infused punishment for a high-court judge; in a dream-message from frightened animals; in a ballad-style lyric about a partisan-fighter and the woman who loved him; and in a lonely mountaintop vigil, looking down on the horrors of war. One autumnal poem set at a Pennsylvania lake challenges, “Where does one take a stand for life?”
Translations are an important part of this volume, and each has a special urgency. A war narrative by Victor Hugo. A rumination about degenerate empires and their cruelty by Yevgeni Yevtushenko. A political warning by Solon the Athenian. Sad lyrics about being a poet in troubled times by Anna Akhmatova (“Who Cares to Listen to Songs?”) and Ludwig Uhland (“The Poet Who Starved”).
Love poems, supernatural fantasies, and other word-explosions in this volume show the poet still as mischievous as ever, sitting with Poe on a Manhattan pier, recounting Providence’s urban horrors, a dream of being Dante, trying to fend off love with plasma physics, reflecting on rampant fungus, eavesdropping on the Virgin Mary, and employing sorcery to fight off a persistent vampire.