The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil

Stephanie Strickland, Author University of Wisconsin Press $19.95 (75p) ISBN 978-0-299-13990-2
The concept of a book of poems based on the life of Weil (1909-1943) is intriguing. But excitement fades after reading a few pages. Biographical poetry, if it is to succeed as poetry, must reach beyond mere biography. Poet and subject must merge to express insights that might not be historically documented but are all the more valued for that very reason. Strickland ( Give the Body Back ) falls short on all counts. No speaker takes center stage, making it difficult for readers to locate themselves. Weil's own words, ``actual or paraphrased,'' are italicized, but the two are not differentiated. In addition, there are passages from books and letters by J. M. Perrin, G. Thibon, Simone de Beauvoir, Gertrude Stein and others. Strickland's own voice is perhaps the most muddled of all. In a poem aptly titled ``How You Are Withheld from Me'' she begins: ``Diffidence? Both of us. You raised / on some banner: the cerebral, intransigent / fragments of your life-- / your papers not published, not / together.'' By turns she addresses Weil, presents a personified voice of her subject and attempts a dialogue, forcing Weil to participate in this inanity. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/29/1993
Release date: 12/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-299-13994-0
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