Suzanne Frischkorn
( Connecticut )

Radish King by Rebecca Loudon
Ravenna Press 2006

      Rebecca Loudon’s Radish King is a breathless book. The lack of sections lends it this quality – 109 pages without pause— yet it also comes from the pacing of the poems themselves, an urgency that catches and compels the reader forward.

      The collection opens with a woman preparing for a voyage. Her ship has a mast, she is going alone, arrangements have been made for the children, and the vessel we learn is not a ship, but a boat. The boat as vessel and the woman as vessel are in fact one and the same. There is fire. She has insomnia. A mouse named Bowsprit is all that is left of the ship. There will be violence— as in teeth, / as in fist.

      The poems that follow are not at all comfortable. They set out to disturb and wholly realize their ambition. Many inhabit a place that is familiar only in that it is a mirror image of reality, recognizable, yet slightly off and the effect is as chilling as it is enchanting.
This is how everything breaks up
freezer door, septic tank, her car
a sinkhole. She’s raptured, a trawler
stuck in a mudflat, a pear shedding
animal skin. A stellar Jay thumps
against the kitchen window.
She shivers, thinking owl.
                                (from Sicksong)
      The one signpost to guide us through the journey is the preface “Poems That Burn.” Fire in the form of arson, ritual ceremony, or the heat of fever’s delirium races through Radish King and while burning is one of the major themes of the book there are other themes as well, namely the body.
Sometimes you have to stand naked under the spigot
I was the victim of a violent crime
which becomes its own fruity mouth,
its own scale.
                           (from Drinking Perchlorate on the Avenue of the Gods)
      Several poems explore symptoms of mania: rapid speech, olfactory hallucinations, and paranoia. Loudon’s deft juxtapositions of image, action, and the senses lead to innovative views of mania’s interior landscapes.

      These are sharp-edged poems; their language is direct and rhythmic, their images precise. The brilliance and blaze in these poems is hypnotic, it is impossible to tear away from them and when Loudon closes Radish King with the lines—
and she doesn’t, she doesn’t understand but knows,
finally, what the owls have come to say.
You believe her.

I - Thrum of Wings
II - Eclipsed by the Whirr and Squeak
III - Raw Silk in the Mouth
IV - The Parenthetical Body

Review - Nicole Cartwright Denison
Essay - C. E. Chaffin

Featured Poet - Sandra Beasley

Current Issue - Summer 2007