In her second collection of verse Elizabeth Seydel Morgan establishes herself as a poet of fierce honesty and originality. The Governor of Desire examines the world through the lens of our emotions, a perspective from which we see how everything connects—nature, politics, passion, terror, anger, grief.
Morgan’s poems are miracles of perception and grace. They shine with the sort of luster that comes only with unrelenting rigor and flawless craftsmanship. Tough yet tender, haunting yet lyrical, they are remarkable fusions—like governed desire—of form and content. The lean, sure syncopation, for instance, of “Do You Remember Where You Were?” deftly juggles recollections of the Beatles’ first hit recording and reflections on the raw violence of our recent history.
The elegiac “What Is the Most Elvis Ever Weighed?” introduces a topic we expect to be played as farce but that develops into a heart-breaking evocation of lives adrift, of dreams confounded, of youth and beauty vanished. In “Bear in Mind,” the ingenuity and complexity of Morgan’s comparisons mute our growing sense of unease, and make the sudden shift from metaphor to reality—“when the towering nightmare/ blacks out the stars”—all the more terrifying.
Morgan’s startling imagery seems not only natural but inevitable, as in “Define Space,” in which the stark absence of a loved one is personified as a kind of spiritualist of negation:
Space is not what is not,
nor the object of rockets;
it’s the way they get where they’re going.
It’s the cold blue absence of you
that bristles me into he future.
Space is the lively medium—
that made-up lady we have trouble believing
,who goes into a trance of not-being,
rolls her eyes toward the place
where you could have gone
and asks us all here to hold hands.
Alive with mystery and beauty, these poems illuminate the vicissitudes of our common experience. They are the mark of a writer of rare gifts.
A native of Atlanta, Elizabeth Seydel Morgan is the author of four previous poetry collections. Morgan lives in Richmond, Virginia, near her three children and five grandchildren.
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