Self-Evidence: A Selection of Verse, 1977-1997

Pamela White Hadas, Author
Pamela White Hadas, Author Triquarterly Books $18 (154p) ISBN 978-0-8101-5074-4
Reviewed on: 12/01/1997
Release date: 04/01/1998
Hardcover - 230 pages - 978-0-8101-5073-7
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The title suggests a confessional impulse, but Hadas works through a series of masks that conceal the self as much as they reveal it--showing ""a woman dressed in myth,"" as the poet describes designer Coco Chanel. Varied and ventriloquial, her dramatis personae inhabit women on the edge of disappearance: Eurydice, Watergate wives struggling against public view, Simone Weil starving herself, Pocahontas dying of consumption in a strange new world. The effect of this layering of guises is bewildering, and the poems often seem impacted with historical or allusive detail. But Hadas always directs them to moments where masks can be discarded and truth revealed. As Hadas's Rahel Varnhagen, a Romantic-era intellectual who hosted a Berlin salon and served as a military attach , observes, ""a person can look outside history, past/ the dreams, the lies, the theories."" (Extensive notes lighten the reader's historical load.) Often brought to life in staged readings, Hadas's wry speakers are at their best when their shifting bounds of selfhood find lyric expression, and ironic shading. Her Circe, a ""travel agent,"" talks back ""Because your men are making pigs of themselves,/ that's why. And for fun."" Lines from ""Psyche's Suite,"" a long poem, go even further: ""How describe, looking back, this moment, her life?/ A `miracle'? `challenge'? `a pretty fix'?/ `hanging by a thread'? `a power dive'?/ Will Psyche brag how she stole this trophy from the Styx?"" (June)
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