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Sep 24

Blot Lit Reviews: Fiddle is Flood by Lauren Gordon

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The Fiddle is Flood, Lauren Gordon
Blood Pudding Press, 2015
Reviewed by Jonita Davis

Lauren Gordon’s Fiddle is Flood embodies the idea of the “chapbook as an experience.” The front cover is a throwback to the days of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her homestead on the prairie. There’s even a purple yarn embellishment to the heavy paper cover. If these elements are what get your poetry heart a beating, then the poems within will be heaven.

Gordon hails back to those prairie days as if she were trying to breathe modern life into them with every lyrical line. She intermixes the modern vulgarities with Wilder’s innocent ideals to create a book of poetry that does come across a bit more raw than the idealized prairie life could ever accomplish. Here’s an example from one of the poems in the collection entitled “Ma Scraps the Boiled Orange”:

I listen for the Indians
press a cold tongue
to the ceiling of my mouth
lay a hot hand
to myself under
the piecemeal quilt.

Here, Gordon combines erotic imagery with the fear of the attack from a hostile Native American tribe. Now, Wilder always referenced the fear and danger that accompanied the “Indian threat” on her idealized prairie life. However, that life would never include anything as erotic as the masturbatory imagery that Gordon pairs with the fear.

In this way, Gordon amplifies the danger and anticipation, making it something that would make the Ma of Wilder’s stories hide in shame. In Gordon’s prairie, the feminine is one with her femininity—no matter how that is expressed. But, just as Wilder acknowledge the patriarchal hold that the Pa’s of the world had on society, Gordon gives the reader a few visceral images that suggest rape and misogyny at work.

If Friday nights on the old homestead held a poetry slam along with the fiddling, Gordon’s poems would be right at home. She uses images of buried babies and oversexed grasshoppers to depict the realities of the time in a way that Wilder could never do in her tales of family and innocence. Gordon’s “Prairie” is not a place that we want to visit, if we know what’s best for ourselves.

It is an eclectic chapbook that may not meet the tastes of all poetry lovers. Although it’s imagery is more realistic than the idealized prairie life it tries to emulate, The Fiddle is Flood may not have enough of the raw passion modern poetry enthusiasts seek. It is for the reader who loves a good mash up, and the kind of chapbook that sets its own tone–from the yarn tied in the binding to the Wilder references nestled between a flowery cover.

An Interview with Lauren Gordon 

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