Harriet Rubin's Mother's Wooden Hand

Susan Firestone Hahn, Author University of Chicago Press $30 (89p) ISBN 978-0-226-31299-6
In her first book of poetry, Hahn explores the origins of the imperfect psyche and the lifelong effects of traumatic childhood events upon the adult emotional life. For the character in ``Claustrophobia,'' the feeling of being unwanted ``started in the womb''; ``Voices from the other side / spoke of how they hoped / it was a boy. / She wanted to run, / unravel from the fetal knot.'' In ``Looking Out on Africa,'' the speaker remembers watching from her crib as her parents made love, an experience that has greatly influenced her own sexual behavior: ``Memory merges with my own / geometry, becomes part of how / I dance /the foreign dance, / sing / the strange sounds.'' Hahn's Freudian interpretations of her speakers' actions are often witty and provocative, but much of this poetry is too straightforwardly narrative, lacking acute insight and inventive wordplay. Only when the story Hahn is telling is shocking by its very nature does the reader really sit up and take notice:ital correct/pk ``I've never felt my father's / love, but when I was six / we took a bath together. / Curious, I moved toward him and he jumped, / slapped my fingers; the water / stung my wide open / eyes.'' (June)
Reviewed on: 06/17/1991
Release date: 06/01/1991
Paperback - 89 pages - 978-0-226-31301-6
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