Toi Derricotte on Lise Goett
These bold poems by Lise Goett, so exquisitely wrought, find their subject in art, history, religion, and day-to-day life, focusing on the tense line between vulnerability and power. Hers is a relentlessly questioning mind, willing to assume and to reflect complicated realities. This is dangerous art, as serious as a heart attack, unsparing mostly of the poet herself, and as intensely rewarding as it is unsettling.
In "Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl," Ms. Goett takes another look at a painting by Whistler. The girl in the painting, young, virginal, is caught in a moment just before her life will tip entirely in another direction. The poet is reminded of Mary at the Annunciation. She thinks of the moment of glory when the Virgin accepts. But she also thinks of "a village calm before a devastation, / before the riders arrive with their polished mounts and handsome guns." The painting is "as transformative as the torrent of a blizzard/and as coldly alluring," and, like a blizzard, it has silenced any hint of the real struggle beneath.
Ms. Goett's poems aim to bring back, by the strength of dramatic narrative and "incarnadine," "sable-throated" and "blood garneted" images, the felt, the visceral knowledge. However, the clear intelligence and imagination of these poems make them as much homage to what they question, as they are an act of resistance.