Jane Rosenberg LaForge's Medusa's Daughter, in the author's words, "interrogates the relationship I had with my mother." Not a straightforward
narrative, the book instead presents, scenes, vignettes. and images from Mother/Medusa's life.
"Instead of the luxurious shafts
of screens and radio advertisements,
she is given a wiry batch
stinging at the eyes
as if diamond-backed…
Not exactly snake-like
but conscious patterns
copied from the anonymous,
discovered quickly, repeated…."
Near life's end after the birth of a granddaughter:
she'll be an actress
someday, or a writer;
it's in her blood far
below where it might
leave a contemporaneous
…the envy you wish
you could conceal
at your daughter's
more perfect childhood."
In between, LaForge relates her mother's story and her own life with her in fragments and observations.
The length and scope of this book and the complex, allusive, and sometimes near-surrealistic language make it impossible for a reviewer to
do full justice to the power of the book. So I offer excerpts in the hope of enticing the reader to pick it up and experience it in full.
From a poem entitled "Jungle Red," this glimpse of the poet's early years:
"I could never describe
its 1950s vibe,
old-fashioned and outrÃ©,
the color of my mother's lipstick,
loud as if it also carried
a scent, like melted crayons
or a wave of something that left
me nauseated; I got motion
sickness just to look at my mother
in her only make-up."
Further along, "When Medusa Was Beautiful,"
"Before your education and ulcers
set in; before her hair grayed
into snakes, the weight was gained, the lips
thinned into a pursed expression."
"My Father and I Discuss My Mother After Her Death" indicates some of the difficulties Medusa and her family faced throughout her life:
"Well, your mother always had
to have her projects,
he [the poet's father] said, smiling wistfully
as he rarely did in her lifetime.
But it really wasn't like that.
It's just a story we agreed upon,
a mnemonic shorthand
we could easily stash
and retrieve when recollecting
her years of depression and manias."
In "Medusa's Other Daughter," we discover that the poet is less favored of two offspring:
"The favorite, alleged
By the other, because
She knows the favorites
In an official sense:
Flower, Broadway musical,
Movie, book; tastes
And preferences beyond
The title poem relates a not unexpected divergence between the way Medusa sees her daughter and the poet's self-assessment:
"I see myself, I see myself,
and how I wish people would see me:
as if I was Monet's woman with a parasol
turning to glance back at the artist,
my skirt swept up by wind and a veil
from my hat obscuring my face…."
And finally, the poet considers her mother's death:
"Between birth and death,
Three days apart on
The calendar collapsing
Methods and practices
Just as dreams might be
Mistaken for real events
At certain hours, pre-dawn.
I dreamt I owned only
Chairs, no mattresses,
No place for rest
In peace, no graciousness.
Because I'm not ready
To let you go.
("A Year's Time")
These passages only hint at what awaits the reader in this intensely written, complex collection. The language may prove difficult for some and this
highly wrought volume is possibly not to everyone's taste, but should prove to be fascinating and rewarding for those who like slow, challenging
reading and the exploration of women's experiences from multiple viewpoints.
You can purchase the book here: