Tikkun Winter 2019 (34.1) - Page 135

or stubborn father / these days looks out of the mirror.” From her 2010 collection Cities, she includes the poem “Long Life,” which begins: Late summer. Sunshine. The eucalyptus tree. It is a fortune beyond any deserving to be still here, with no more than everyday worries, The full volume opens with a poem about hair, “How can I reassure my dismayed self in the mirror / as a hank of hair comes away in the comb?” This prompts a meditation on his- tory, both the history of the war with an image of “bewildered French women / with scalps exposed” because their “heads were shaved for sleeping with German soldiers” and her per- sonal history of “the huge house we couldn’t afford” with the raspberry brambles and wild roses in the garden, our library where my first poems took shape— the terra cotta ceiling and sanded floor, where young poets often came to sprawl and talk of their messy lives, and the erotic charge The opening salvo of “Hair” in The Clinic, Memory demonstrates the richness of Fein- stein’s work. Her robust engagements with history and literature are grounded in precise observations of the world immediately around her. Alternately wry and earnest, Feinstein’s poems offer sharp observations on modern life. At the end of “Hair,” Feinstein observes “branches of bare trees catch November gold[;]” she is “suffused with extravagant hap- piness.” Feinstein’s “extravagant happiness,” like Ostriker’s, is earned through vibrant po- litical engagements in the poems and in the world. In a poem in the voice of Käthe Kollwitz, the German feminist and political artist, Muriel Rukeyser asked, “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?” For the past five decades, women poets have responded VOL. 34, NO. 1 to that provocative question. Now, a broad constellation of responses exists, and Feinstein and Ostriker are two stars giving off intense light. For five decades, each poet has produced work that splits the world open. The retrospec- tive of Feinstein’s work in The Clinic, Memory illuminates some stepping stones to this mo- ment, while Ostriker’s Waiting for the Light demonstrates new and recurrent concerns of feminism. The contemporary resurgence of feminist activism, evidenced by #metoo and #timesup, demonstrates that more work re- mains. The women’s liberation movement used poetry as an activist tool; today, poetry sustains hopes, dreams, and desires as days unfold with advances and, inevitably, heartbreaks. New collections by Alicia Ostriker and Elaine Feinstein are perfect for readers looking for poetic expressions of feminist, progressive, and political aspirations. Both women offer words to cheer the potential of historic numbers of women elected to office, words to jeer regres- sive, harmful politicians, and words to foment political dissent and resistance. For readers needing poems as guides, as inspirations, as balms through these topsy-turvy times, “ex- travagant happiness” is a gift from both Fein- stein and Ostriker. JULIE R. ENSZER, PhD, is a scholar and a poet. Her scholarly work has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern Cultures, Journal of Lesbian Studies, American Periodicals, WSQ, and Frontiers. She is the author of four poetry collections, Avowed, Lilith’s Demons, Sisterhood and Handmade Love. She is editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry. She has her MFA and PhD from the University of Maryland. Enszer edits and publishes Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the The Rumpus and Calyx. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com. © 2019 TIKKUN MAGAZINE 135