Quirky, electric poems, spare and challenging.
Martine Bellen invokes a new Muse, a new daughter of Mnemosyne, in WABAC MACHINE. In these poems, Time itself is the traveler--visiting epic, visiting nightmare, mischief and the Land of Heart's Desire. To Bellen, Time is a creature alive for an instant, and the instant reaches very far indeed, in every direction, even so far as the laughter of the gods.
Martine Bellen’s psychological and linguistic adventures in poetry are unlike anyone else’s. Celebrating the instabilities of our experience, her poems maneuver kaleidoscopically between ordinary life and myth or fairy tale, vital human concerns such as identity and dreamlike atmospheres where nothing stays as it appears for long. Her “host of unlikely divinities” display a reality that is never ordinary, always evocative.
When one thinks of ghosts, one imagines beings that are both literally and figuratively unresolved. Like a flickering fluorescent bulb, a ghost occupies the liminal space between life and death, presumably because of an unfulfilled need for closure. Bellen, whose Tales of Murasaki and Other Poems won a National Poetry Series award, carries this theme forward in her current collection with a lyricism more germane to the living than to the recently departed. Her work is unfailingly musical even while sacrificing none of the concrete details of the quotidian. When she reminds the reader that "each line in a poem can’t avoid acting as a series of questions," she shows a concern for the worldly that transcends the merely personal focus of more mainstream verse. —Chris Pusateri, Library Journal
[Bellen’s] gradual accretive methods and early invocations of Sappho and Freud should remind more than a few readers of H.D.; the foremother of lyric poetry sponsors Bellen’s melancholy victory: "The daughter of God/Chariot pulled by sparrows aquiver across high, steep air/And none alive remembers you, gray among ghosts." This poet offers not smoothly finished, closed-off verbal objects but "Raw exposures, too contrasted to reckon/Like sailing through a star." —Publishers Weekly
Bellen is a sensualist with a taste for vernacular as refined as C.D. Wright’s; and a historian as steeped in the montage of character and setting as Susan Howe or Guy Davenport.—Publishers Weekly