White Spiders by Lisa Marie Basile
Gold Wake Press, 2010,
Reviewed by Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom
Lisa Marie Basile's five-poem chapbook, White Spiders, appeared in September as part of a fascinating ongoing series published online in PDF format by Gold Wake Press.
The image of a playfully childlike statue framed by the vibrant colors of a tropical locale is a good visual introduction to these vivid, energetic poems, animated by the dynamics of sexual passion and rich with exotic language and imagery.
The opening poem, "Opera," compares the nuances of a volatile relationship to a cabaletta, an operatic term often referring to an impassioned duet, describing it as "half the tamed greenery of love but more the wild/ jungle where ghosts kill men on foot."
The point is possibly overstated in the final line, "loud, bloody, broken shimmering." But even when they overreach a bit, as when the next poem, "Us," extends the metaphor of a belly dance from a lover's attentive advance to a larger relationship toward "life" and "humanity," these poems captivate with their bold diction, unabashed sensuality and the sheer way they revel in language, as in the third stanza: "I swirl circle eights against you,/ you becoming per sempre,/ as I need you. You say you are/ für immer."
"Patasola" provides an example of Basile's well-controlled command of diction, beginning with "The moon has enough decency/ to wait as I finish removing my clothes. Only men/ light candles when eager" and ending with "I look like all the women/ you have ever loved. Death! you cry./ Yes, it is me."
The final poem, "Double Negatives," returns from the female speaker's relationship with a male lover to that of a daughter's with her mother, perhaps intentionally echoing the line in "Us" that asked, "Ever wonder why the cats do it, kneading?/ Because they remember their mothers." Although not the strongest of the five, this poem hits the right note to close this brief but satisfying collection.