This review is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.TRIBES & ISOLATIONS
Michele Roberts is a feminist writer whose novels and essays are admired and respected for the new light they shed on well-rehearsed ideological positions; her poetry has the same sources of inspiration but travels a subtler more oblique route. Psyche and the Hurricane, her second collection, is appropriately enough a book of journeys both geographical and interior whose language, while clearly politicized, is rarely overtly political. Roberts may well write in 'Restoration Work in Palazzo Te' that 'the presence of the male body/in the text disrupts it' but the majority of the poems allow a predominance of natural and domestic imagery to suggest how the text might be 'healed'. In this sense the use of natural metaphors does more than just stand for a clichéd special relationship between woman and nature: rather it argues that there is an alternative language and mythology through which to mediate experience.
'Flying to Italy' for example imagines 'The Alps (as) a college of grand-/mothers in white caps', then moves in closer to discover they are Siren-like 'bad grannies' hungry for 'the flesh of businessmen' and airline pilots. The poem underlines both the essentially playful nature of Roberts's style and the way this is used to reveal a kind of double life to everything. The world and our experience of it are a constant dissembling and Roberts is at pains to show us that, like the Alps, things are often not as they first appear: an official dinner becomes a lesson in ...
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