cover image The Woman Without Experiences

The Woman Without Experiences

Patricia Dienstfrey. Kelsey Street Press, $14 (132pp) ISBN 978-0-932716-37-8

This ambitious book, a mixture of prose poems, diarylike entries and ruminative quotations about language, motherhood and memory, is Modernism writ large. With Eliotic footnotes, a Poundian reading list (Genet to Grahn, Alcott to Weil), and an au courant lexicon (""hypogeal space,"" ""the maternal figure of enchantment""), it seems the stuff of which dissertations are made. Even so, Dienstfrey writes movingly and with at times astonishing freshness of a woman's passage from childhood to motherhood in an enchanted atmosphere imbued by poetry. She tells the tale of Nina, who grows up a child of privilege in the Northeast; studies at Harvard; moves to Berkeley; marries and has three children and, perhaps, a female lover. All the while, Nina navigates in heightened states of awareness through poetry, philosophy, literature and intimate relationships. Dienstfrey carves out and then animates a rarefied space where desire and expression and memory intermingle. Although on occasion her language soars above the trappings of this hermetic project (""Gertrude Easterbrook's great wheelchair is covered by wool throws which glint the slanted spokes""), the book, as a grand conceptual text, stands in its traces. (Mar.)