We’re already up to a month’s worth of “Why We Like It,” a weekly blog feature that highlights work from recent issues and provides a glimpse into the minds of the interesting volunteers who open your submission envelopes. This anonymous blogger’s mind resembles an overfed hamster on a rusty, cobweb-draped wheel, but thankfully poet and UC PhD student Lisa Ampleman is on staff. A green spectral glow flickers above her head when she reads a poem, especially a ghazal by Dana Koster. Lisa is not allowed to sit near the computers or electrical outlets. Here are her thoughts, transmitted directly to our blog via telepathy:
Lisa Ampleman: A Persian form, a Petrarchan motif. Dana Koster, in “Ghazal for Aurora Chasing the Deer,” handles both deftly. The ghazal’s refrain, “gone,” metamorphizes at the end of each couplet into “goners,” “goad,” “gain,” and “grown,” and enjambments make the repetition even subtler. The twelve-year-old Aurora, after asking politely, runs off after the deer she sees, and the speaker wishes her such wildness for the rest of her life. The poem is not reducible to such paraphrase, though: The scene is not pastoral. The child is feral, a savage, nearly “slitting the doe’s throat,” feeding. The menace in such diction is ameliorated by the child’s age; this is Hopkins’s “Goldengrove”—with a predatory runner.
Though I’m a sucker for couplets, what keeps me returning to this poem is the deer motif. In Petrarch’s Canzoniere, Laura is a white doe unable to be touched. Petrarch himself is a fleeing, wounded stag. The chase is synonymous with love, with the prey being whoever is passive and pursued. Here, though, our Aurora is the active one, a figuration not for love but
for sheer exuberance and passion outside of the romantic context. Koster captures well that age before a girl becomes a sulking adolescent, when she has energy enough to dash after deer.
Next week, find out why Ian Wissman likes Micah Riecker’s “The Drowned Girl.” Keep an eye out!
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