In her third collection Honor Moore returns to the territory that has marked her earlier poems—what Mark Doty characterized as “charged meditation on the passage of time and the complexities and persistence of desire.” Red Shoes opens with an arrangement of sexy, almost surreal lyrics and continues in a sequence of extended dream-meditations—near poem, near lyric essay— that explore the terrain between sleep and waking, life and death. The final section of elegies moves between memory and grief, body and imagination, often in the rapid flash of a moment, sometimes in notation or narrative, or with photographic stillness.The poems are linked by images and the sense of a story unfolding—a red bowl in one poem reappears in another with more of its attributes; the color red is carried through the collection. How do strangers become lovers? And lovers strangers again? What happens in the landscape in which mere connection becomes intimacy? How, again and again, do we lose each other through love? And reach each other through death? Moore’s is a world, as Eileen Myles wrote in The Nation, “emotionally… as stamped as coin, like an old dream that clangs long after its images are gone.”
From the Houston Chronicle oct 23 2005
New in Poetry
By Robert Phillips
RED SHOES. - By Hohor Moore. Norton. 112 pp. $23S5.: .
There are two Honor Moores writing in her new and third poetry collection. The first appears in the book’s initial sections. She is a poet’who posits startling, original, near-surreal imagery. I wish I had, space to list all the strangely satisfying combinations of words I have checked in this book. Here are a few:
A sheep sails down my ann —
Summer came/blistering like an ambulance…
the moan leaving her scuff marks…
the telephone, her mouth open
sheets bright as mirrors
Only occasionally do her images puzzle, as in “the glass, door was spinning panes/like an open book.” Does an open book have panes to spin? Once in a while a title puzzles, such as Doorway, which is not about a doorway, unless she is talking about an emotional state. The image overreaches. She also uses the noun “rope” a lot.
But generally these are highly ‘satisfying poems, with pleasures like “At his goldcry, the rooster’s crown/flares” and “even the black we wore was bright/moving -across blonde grass.” Throughout the volume she has effects besides poetic images She is master of enjambment: “On this wide table in the dark/city outside” two lines that give us both a table in a dark room and the dark/city outside accomplished with a mere line break. She also creates musical effects, in this instance use of participial phrases: “coloratura/dipthongs leaping, dipping, veering all the way to aspirin…”
In her poem on Wallace Stevens, Moore writes, “We/were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word/to personate entirely thing,” and one can see an influence of Stevens in her imagery. I suspect, like Stevens, she believes poetry is the ultimate fusion of objective reality and imagination.
After all the fireworks in the book’s first two sections, the second Honor Moore takes over in the third, a quieter affair. It traces her friendship with and the death of the photographer and sometime painter Inge Morath. It is as if the subject matter of illness and death toned down the poet’s sensibility, the language made more plain:
Before he turned to leave
she gazed at the height of him
I was rubbing her foot
its heat back’
In this elegiac sequence her lines often are longer, and she waxes philosophical: “Why should the living proclaim hard truth to the dying?”. It is moving musing on human morality and mortality.
Moore, Honor. Red Shoes. June 2005. 112p. Norton,
Moore’s third collection begins with a tango and never loses the keyed-up, elegant, ritualized eroticism of the push and pull of that dangerous courtship dance. The abrupt turns, the dagger stares, the barely sustained restraint, all this is found in Moore’s sexy, telegraphic, edgy, and rapt poetry. Gloves, suits, silks, shoes—all are talismans of desire, tantalizing and thwarting. Reveries, memories, and dreams pitch from the vividly concrete to the uninhibitedly surreal as the poet dreams of her deceased parents, remembers a family home, gazes out windows at sunsets and rain, and considers the touch of fugitive lovers. Recurrent images appear like birds landing on ledges or suddenly remembered songs, as the poet’s musings shift from the erotic to the spiritual in “Gnostic,” the aesthetic in an homage to Wallace Stevens, and the elegiac in a graceful cycle of poems portraying photographer and friend Inge Morath. Exquisitely visual, cuttingly witty, Moore’s poems are at once cool and searing. —Donna Seaman
Copyright by the author, all rights reserved.
The great poet came to me in a dream, walking toward me in a house
drenched with August light. It was late afternoon and he was old,
past a hundred, but virile, fit, leonine. I loved that my seducer
had lived more than a century and a quarter. What difference
does age make? We began to talk about the making of poems, how
I craved his green cockatoo when I was young, named my Key West
after his, like a parent naming a child “George Washington.” He was
not wearing the business suit I’d expected, nor did he have the bored
Rushmore countenance of the familiar portrait. His white tee shirt
was snug over robust chest and belly, his golden hair long, his beard
full as a biker’s. How many great poets ride a motorcycle? We
were discussing the limits of image, how impossible for word
to personate entirely thing: “sea,” ocean an August afternoon; “elm,”
heartbreak of American boulevards after the slaughter
of sick old beautiful trees. “I have given up language,” he said.
The room was crowded and noisy, so I thought I’d misheard.
“Given up words?” “Yes, but not poems,” he said, whereupon
he turned away, walking into darkness. Then it was cooler, and
we were alone in the gold room. “Here is a poem,” he said, proffering
a dry precisely formed leaf, on it two dead insects I recognized
as termites, next to them a tiny flag of scarlet silk no larger than
the price sticker on an antique brooch. Dusky red, though once
bright, frayed but vivid. Minute replica of a matador’s provocation?
Since he could read my spin of association, he was smiling, the glee
of genius. “Yes,” he said, “that is the poem.” A dead leaf? His grin was
implacable. Dead, my spinner brain continued, but beautiful. Edge
curling, carp-shaped, color of bronze or verdigris. Not one, but two
termites—dead. To the pleasures of dining on sill or floor joist, of
eating a house, and I have sold my house. I think of my friend finding
termites when she reached, shelf suddenly dust on her fingers,
library tumbling, the exterminator’s bill. Rapacious bugs devour,
a red flag calls up the poem: Blood. Zinnia. Emergency. Blackbird’s
vermillion epaulet. Crimson of manicure. Large red man reading,
handkerchief red as a clitoris peeking from his deep tweed pocket—
Suddenly he was gone, gold draining from the walls, but the leaf,
the leaf was in my hand, and in the silence I heard an engine howl,
and through the night that darkened behind the window, I saw
light bolt forward, the tail of a comet smudge black winter sky.