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"Whether she is upbraiding the arrogance of gods or protesting
the injustices inflicted on America's downtrodden, Corwin exhibits
rock-solid wisdom washed by an ocean of empathy."
Tim W. Brown
Editor of Tomorrow Magazine
"The mythic and the mundane merge intelligently in Nina Corwin's
conversational tone. In Conversation, Nina gives an accurate and
funky literary accounting of lessons to remember."
Author of Dark Legs And Silk Kisses
"Nina Corwin's poems resonate like the ring of fine crystal.
Her insights into matters of the heart and soul combined with
the beauty with which she expresses them will both inform and delight."
Author of The Alphabet And The Goddess
Chats With The Muse Leave Evidence of Insight
In Nina Corwin's Poems
By Wilbert Bledsoe, editor, The Oyez Review, Roosevelt University
Nina Corwin's volume of poetry, Conversations With Friendly
Demons and Tainted Saints, published by Puddin'head Press, offers up
twenty-eight pieces which range from the interior monologue of Eve after The
Fall to the jazz improvisations of "Mr. Music Plays A Solo None Too
Sane." In her poems, Corwin conveys a feminine sensibility that touches self-conscious sensitivities in "Ugly Duckling Awaits The Pie In The Fairy Tale Sky" and the triumph of female endurance in "Lady Sysyphus".
Pressing beyond the too common all-on-the-surface style of many
others who specifically prepare their work for performance, Nina Corwin brings
a nuanced literary awareness to her poems which embraces reference and allusion
and freshens the wide spectrum of traditions which she selectively echoes with
a new take that is totally her own. In poems like "Daphne Reflects On Becoming A Tree" and "Exhorting Orpheus", classical Greek mythology serves as source, or rather as a point of departure for contemporary introspection.
In "Please, Doctor Pangloss", Voltaire's Candide
becomes the catalyst for commentary and in "Looking For Mental
Hygiene", Corwin's experience as a working psychotherapist informs her
lines with an authority that moves well beyond the merely self-centered
outpourings of those who turn to the cathartic creation of verse in the hope of
releasing through exposure their own personal demons. Clearly, Conversations With Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints
is a volume of poetry to sit down with, to savor, and to revisit. It is a collection of new verse which brings rich traditions into a modern mode and provides a perspective that is both intelligent and emotionally aware.
Corwin's Book of Poems Exposes Misogyny in Mythology and Theology
From "Streetwise" October 12, 1999 by Vitorrio Carli
Published by Puddin'head Press, PO Box 477889, Chicago IL 60647,708-656-4900
Nina Corwin's Conversations with Friendly Demons and Tainted Saints is a compelling, imaginative volume of poetry by a vital Chicago writer. Corwin attempts to speak for the marginalized voices in history and mythology. It is highly appropriate that she holds a mask on the back cover because in effect she becomes the tainted saints and friendly demons when she takes on their voices.
Corwin is a practicing psychotherapist and graduate of University of Chicago. Her work has appeared in the late, lamented Tomorrow Magazine, The Oyez Review and on National Public Radio. In addition, she has been
a regular performer at Around the Coyote and the Bucktown Arts Fest.
In the bold opening poem, "Eve Speaks", the mother of humankind eloquently voices her concerns to God after the fall. She expresses her fear regarding her mate's violent lust for conquering when she says: "He's got all your taste for dominion/ With none of the mercy, and Lord, I am afraid." She also calls for a more sensitive, more feminine version of the divine when she pleads:
But Lord, perhaps you'll think of woman
next time you think to do a bit of making
Bring a woman's touch into the undertaking....
This confident work is reminiscent of former slam champion Patricia Smith's "Medusa" poem which tells a classic mythological story from the oppressed Gorgon's point of view. Both poems call into question the
exaggerated patriarchal notions of divine punishment from the past.
However, it's far more difficult to make a case for Delilah as an oppressed victim. "Delilah's Rejoinder" is another interesting revisionist poem which challenges the one sided accounts that are presented in the Bible, and other sources (such as the Hedy Lamar Samson and Delilah film). For the first time, Delilah gets to tell her side of the story in a first person monologue in modern, colloquial English. Although she admits being guilty of the cutting Samson's hair, she denies the demonizing accusations that she is a Lorena Bobbit precursor or symbolic castrater.
She also tries to divvy up some of the blame for Samson's fall when she explains, "Hell, I was only the hired henchman for some essentially paternal grab/ for the brass ring (guys do it all the time.)"
Delilah asserts that Samson deserved his fate because any man or woman who relies on his or her physical attributes is asking for a comeuppance. But, her rationale for doing the same thing is weak when she says, "Sure, I flashed a bit of tits and ass/ I might as well/ before they pass."
There are also poems which deal with the here and now. In "Looking for Mental Hygiene", she speaks for the refuse of society, the mentally challenged. She paints a bleak picture of patients without insurance, and a society that doesn't take mental illness seriously. At times, she actually romanticizes the patients that society deems insane, because they can travel to mystical places (such as "Strawberry Fields" and the garden of Eden) that no one else can see.
Ms. Corwin has a special interest in abused women, so it isn't surprising that she has a poem which deals with this problem. In "Welfare Man", Corwin paints a sad portrait of a woman married to a desperate man. After he loses his job,
he takes out his frustration by repeatedly beating her. It's a sad portrait of a person in a hellish situation.
There are a few typographical and editing errors in the poem. At one point, the text reads, "she quick put him down," instead of "she quickly put him down." At another point in the poem it's hard to tell which man died
because of confusing subject usage.
Despite these quibbles, the book is a smart, insightful and challenging read. It would make a great companion piece to the Elaine Pagel's feminist theology book, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, because it manages to expose the misogyny in mythology in a clever, artful manner. The book takes on some important societal problems and stereotypes without resorting to sermonizing.
OTHER BOOKS BY NINA CORWIN
INHABITING THE BODY
Nina Corwin and Mary H. Ber
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