Saturday, October 14, 2006

This is poetry about transformation, about living things breathing, despite themselves, and then, thriving to catch up. But we, in fact, never catch up. The act of writing poetry is the act of never catching up to those heartbeats. Never catching up. Never. We lead busy lives. No time to catch up.
Somewhere along the line, then again, more often not, poetry gets written. But if the point is some rationale, some deadline, some goal in mind, whether it is to inspire or instruct or simply elucidate: It's all about a set of feelings, thoughts or impressions just passing through us. Passing through us, although all along we seek, "the arrival."
Which is why "Ivy in the Cornfields," this first effort by Iowa-born Jaimie Ondrea Dunn, is an arrival. Like a weed that didn't get whacked, it's about survival as arrival, and it's the legend, in this dreamy literature of media as Medea, of a distant past littered with the wreckage of a late-20th century family life, but the victory of one woman who came through it all, somehow, a natural-born mystic and enchantress, a practitioner of the craft.
Though it has been a long slow painful labor of say, 10 years or more, this first book of poetry by Dunn lands us firmly in her past. A difficult one at that. A childhood tormented by a near-clinical case of abuse due to sibling rivalry, torn by divorce and disaster by fire. But this is Dunn rising like a Phoenix through the ashes of incredible depression and self-doubt, a woman whose strength is that unpopped kernal of some idea about what is good, what is pure, what is important to her: some angst or passion or all of those together that came together as that first cry in the void as long as 10 years ago.
She is a pluckish, determined force of nature, but as she often says, 'it isn't easy being green."
Yes, Dunn's creative fires burn slow. Like making Italian sauce the real way, slow. Heartbreakingly slow to watch it. If only because, quite frankly, as she read from the early first drafts while living out on the fringes of the American wilderness in the Verde Valley of central Arizona, one would have thought her to be pretty nutty, if only because she had any doubt whatsoever about the power of her words. But like the past, it is slow to surface, and so is self-assurance, self-confidence. Anyone attempting to come at age in an age of constant transformation is always going to feel like that fish out of water. "Ivy in the Cornfields" is Dunn's statement on the uprising of a wannabe feminist, and then, a series of Icarus-like descents into the underworld, and then, and then ... the emergence.
That evolutionary witchcraft for words has proven now to be the transformation of Dunn, a true-believer as a sensual Scorpio, as one of those Joan of Arc sorts. You know, one of those few whose sense of mission is both purposeful and yes, always inscrutable, chaotic. Let's face it, to make so much beauty when so much is not so pretty may be be the stuff of poetry, but it's hell on the credit report, the relationships, those roots we all seek to dig into the fields of contentment in America.
In "Ivy in the Cornfields," Dunn has arrived at the age of near-30 with poetry that, like the title implies, is all about how difficult it can be to be, well, green, in America.
Unwanted. Impertinent. Unpredictable. Sexy in all of the wrong places. An irrational nuisance, perhaps, but nonetheless a total transformative force for those of us who must tend to life in the orderly rows of corn. She is that thing that has grown up between the cracks of a culture that is barely beginning to tolerate its goddesses again, not to mention the mystics, witches, sensualists, and so on.
"Ivy in the Cornfields" is a rite of passage document. It's about a young woman kicking the daylights out of the darkness just to feel alive and understand what it means to feel real good, if for just a few days, weeks, then months, about oneself. It's about her personal transformation from a lesbian to a heterosexual dating woman, a loving partner, and then something in between. A full-spectrum woman, a pretty complicated one. A "Stands with Fist" type. William Blake would have liked all of the sexual tension and confusion rising above the surface, and he would loathe the scythe of rational light that keeps whacking back, keeps cutting down the corn, keeps trying to weed out the ivy.
But no such luck. Dunn happens. Ivy is no poisonous nuisance here. "Ivy in the Cornfield" rings with joy, defiance and bottomless lust, a victory of the senses for the feminine spirit in a botched, masculine world that's pretty damned determined to push it all back down into the furnace.