Handler writes the full orchestral score of what is female.
-Afaa Michael Weaver
Laid forth in six sections, the poems in GlOrious speak of the transmigration of a woman–from an emotionally stifled girlhood through the first tentative steps of self-discovery to, finally, the apostasy of womanhood and the ecstasy that everyday rebellion can bring. Combining the confessional candor of a Robert Lowell or John Berryman with the ecstatic modernist ranting quality of an Alan Ginsberg or Charles Bukowski, Joan Cusack Handler has fashioned a unique voice as a poet.
Chicago Book and Media Show Honorable Mention 2003
… is a tunnel inside my chest: hot, tight, small and dark. Not t o t a lly black, e nough gray for me to see the s h a d ows I make a l o ne here:the beaten calf, theburned b r a n c h e s, the bruisedgrey stone. No, it is not enough for Sad to sit here qu i etly a lone – content to be left alone. No, it must insist it – self into every place that jOy lives or recalls. G r e e d y for something so knotted & small), it takes m o r e than i ts share at the table – c o m p e ting with each sun- r i se or son’s cry. I even felt i t s t i r and perchon the backofmy neck when my husband drewthe ruby n e c k l a c e close&clasped itbehindmyhair. I t was Christ- mas. & Sad has s h a p es & s m e l l s. S o metimes I can touch it. S a d I s the h u g e moss covered b o o t of that bl o a ted oak plundering its way through the farmer’s picket fence. Sad is a too- Tall GirL when boys & her brotherlaugh & tease. Sad is my M o th e r’ s coldcreamed face, when I r e a c h u p totouchit. Sad is my father, d r u n konce in the bath- room,mother pounding on the door.Sad is my mother s t i l l crying on the couch. It’swetsmelly Sheets; I t ‘s kneelingatthe bathtub’saltar – wrists numb intheicywater. It’s S i s t e r Mary Thomas saying I have no backbone. S a d is the weddingring I for get to wear & the flannel night gown I re- ly on in bed. Sad is the Place that secrets go; It’s the place I go when there’s no place else tobesmall.
I cannot remember my body before the hair: dark frenzied gateway between virtue & sin. It seemed that the body had thrown on its clothes. Did the hair arrive when Eve sinned? Perhaps there’s a possible undoing: return to pre-Eden Eve & the hair disappears. Or perhaps the hair isn’t shame but nature’s protection & like the thorn on holly & roses, the hair brings blood: glory blood, Eve blood, Bread & Wine Blood. This curtained kingdom that generates the blood then releases it, is the gate through which my son entered the world. What holier place than this vagina, this cave &birthplace F o r c e d O p e n when he was full& grown & it was time for him to m a ke his way Out like Christ did on Easter Morning? What holier sacrament than the sex he was made of beneath this flourish of hair?
GlOrious takes the broad and dangerous campaign into the heart of betrayal and loss, dangerous inasmuch as humanity would rather not believe the deepest depths of its own cruelty, the way it seeks its own ending by murdering its promise. In this shimmering collection, Joan Handler shows us the gems that come from pain in the fragile fibers of her spirit, as the poems fall like pearls fleeing their binding string to be reborn... The spirit of the book lives as the poet lives, seeking and then knowing and seeking again...
Crowned by the protean, sensuous language that whiplashes across its pages, GlOrious is glorious... With her sinewy humor, bravura honesty and fierce excess, Handler becomes a warrior goddess of the psycho-poetics she champions. Her canny insights and uncanny intuition reinvigorate our world.
Joan Cusack Handler... writes of the body’s unapologetic continuing... with a largesse that volleys between tender and roaring. Her lines blow wide, her metaphors tree tall as she roots the whole oaken structure in her signature loamy sexuality... She renders the psychological spiritual and back again... Few writers... have dared this kind of generosity, and ...confronted Spirit with such fervent audacity and won.