Hello readers! Welcome back to Exploring the Backlist, where we join our team of interns as they explore over 40+ years of our publication history and share their passion for some of their favorite titles from BOA Editions. Today's post from Ashley F. finds "the complexities hidden in plain sight" in Desire Lines by Lola Haskins.
My name is Ashley, and I am an English Literature major from The College at Brockport. For the past few months I have been interning with BOA Editions. I was asked if I would contribute a review of one of our previously published works.
While I was browsing through our collections, one stood out to me in particular, Desire Lines by Lola Haskin. The title itself was a line that had been cast, drawing me in.
Within the poems, the outside world is filled with grime, death, and loneliness that Haskins does not shy away from. Rather, Haskins embraces them into the world her narrators inhabit, describing them with honesty. She achieves this by reducing her poetry to the bare bones ―both structurally and lyrically― with harrowing messages that hit you like a bullet, sharp and direct. Within the first poem of the collection, “Nursery Rhymes”, she showcases this in the last few stanzas:
to be born
and to see
in the mirror
Her poetry does not encourage the intricate beauties of idyllic settings with beautiful people, but instead relies on realities of the unremarkable everyday life, finding the complexities hidden in plain sight.
Another quality of Haskins’s writing is that it is collective, deriving from one persona to speak on behalf of the women throughout history. These women that could be deemed unremarkable (as a quality I had previously applied to Haskins’s inspirations) prove to be much more. Haskins proves to portray these women as diverse and honestly as the rest of her work. She writes them as fragile, promiscuous, plain, young, old, and extraordinary as any other woman that exists in this world. She does not flatten them out to be more than what they are, glorifying the experience as a woman throughout history, but instead captures the reality of multi-faceted women in a harsh world.
Within the poems, we see her portrayed many times over, as a lover, a mother, a child, or as a grandmother. As she describes the people surrounding her characters and the relationships she shares with them, she still fights this constant loneliness that is found within all of these personas:
Your gold warmth is fading in my arms
and, Jane, I want you to stay. But the sun’s
too low, and we live in different times.
No matter what we do, the cold comes in.”
Lola Haskins's Desire Lines works throughout the span of time, connecting from woman to woman. Sharing experiences, sharing loneliness, and sharing the beauty that they struggle to find in the world around them. These experiences become almost cyclic, the very last words of the collection being, “The end, and burn. End. And burn”. Perhaps Haskins knows it’s meant to be an endless experience, and that every voice in this collection will come to an end, and burn.
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