cover image Baptism of Desire: Poems

Baptism of Desire: Poems

Louise Erdrich. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.95 (78pp) ISBN 978-0-06-016213-9

Evocative and explicit, this collection of poems from novelist Erdrich ( Love Medicine ; Tracks )--whose first published volume, Jacklight , was also of poetry--explores the often mingled spiritualities of her dual Catholic and Native American heritage. First-person narrators reveal dark, intense visions in poems such as ``Saint Clare,'' whose speaker tells of the ``furnace of mirrors, / in which I watch myself burn. / The scales of my old body melt away like coins . . . .'' Other poems connect to modern images and icons: the sad, surmised secret of a dull, heavy girl named Clare who paid for carnival rides ``where the wild grass spread too long.'' The lengthy ``Hydra'' strings images of female sexuality, birth and mothering across time and various cultures in ``plenary motion.'' The last poems are domestic and reflective, written, according to the author, in the small hours of the night when pregnancy made her insomniac. Vividly physiological, these celebrate the possibilities of new life against the backdrop of myth and history evoked in the preceding selections. The best poems, whose persona seems closest to the author, confirm the authority of Erdrich's voice. (Jan.)