Elise by Evelyn Posamentier
(B. Lateiner/ Vortex Editions, Palo Alto, CA, 1979)
Where is Evelyn Posamentier, or
Where is Evelyn Posamentier? She is with Elise. Where is Elise? She is here, she is way back in the past, before the two World Wars. Is Evelyn there with her? Yes, they have a vineyard and sell their wine in a big store, we are all invited in (Elise is most beautiful). Come with me into this ineffable trip that defies time and space
i hear her ancestral musings
on an unborn keyboard<>br as i finish polishing the silverware.
(Elise in the late afternoon)
No adventures for the lazy, just lyrical poetry that leads you to an abstract sequencing of steps, well-defined – although timeless - routines. If you haven’t seen birds flying out of your heart, this book is not for you, look for something more solid, maybe Stephen King could do.
This book is not for everybody anyhow, printed in 500 copies, just few selected will have it in their hands to feel the grain of the thick paper, the blue ink, and will disappear in Posamentier’s intellectual settings. Published by B. Lateiner for Vortex Editions, designed jointly by publisher and author in 1979, its precious quality is what first strikes. A double cover, the inside one burgundy, the outside in between indigo and lapis lazuli, but deprived of the joyful brilliance of the latter. What seems a background is probably a blocked entrance/exit, the supporting wall starts from the front cover, it seems logical to think that it continues beyond the border of the back cover. Two people are sitting at the feet of the wall, playing cards, nestled at the very left bottom of the back cover.
we feel strangely to be separated
by a century & a couple of wars.
(Elise moves in)
With Elise and Evelyn you are at the apogee of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, or no, that was already way distant:
i whisper to her
the kaiser is dead, remember, elise?
we are light years away
from our frozen destinies.
(Elise whispers that the Kaiser is dead)
At times, the narrating voice, the “I”, fades out to let Elise exist. Although we know - by coarse implied knowledge - that the “I” is the existing entity dialoguing with Elise. Or, as in Elise is Empty, it is the I who discovers that “her head [is] lying on the floor / like a decapitated doll’s.” The narrator is pressed to continue: “what have i done to elise.” The “I” is therefore not Evelyn Posamentier, who could have done nothing to Elise, since she does not exist, but a choral we echoing along history, what happened to Elise, who is she? Is she the “I,” like in Elise in the mirror, poem in which the “I” shoves her under the door, gets rid of her, so why “the mirror”? What does the mirror reflect if not the speaking “I”? Are we all Elise?
In Following Elise around town, we are at the zoo. A cop needs to make sense of what is happening but the dialogue that follows is not reassuring:
& why does your friend
only speak in rhyme? it’s getting on our nerves.
officers, she is mute, she is the wild thing
crying in your sleep, she is the mild hint of danger
but not danger itself,
you don’t need a key.
Does this seem surreal, are we dealing with some artistic invention that prefers nonsense to sense? I would quickly deny. We should find references with Poe, Jung sublimed into Lacanian thought, rather than think of Breton or Bunuel. We are possibly quite close to Lacan when he states that “An interpretation whose effects one understands is not a psychoanalytic interpretation,” imbued by Poe’s perceptive sight that elevates the writing to a poetic stand. Where does knowledge of self begin, where does it end. Good literature and poetry still have something new to say, right because the vastness of our psyche has just been stirred. The unlimited sea with its depths to fathom is out there, still untouched. What is at stake? Our life and death. But not only.
i feel the sun is losing me on the horizon
(Elise in February)
“She is coming back to me” writes Posamentier in Some leaves fall. Elise, whatever entity she might be for the Poet, becomes now the savior, the “blue light” (in Elise around the clock).
Do we overlap ourselves? Where does the “you” end and the “I” begin? The “you” and “we”? Who is Elise and who is the “I”? Are those people real, the ones that appear in the poems besides the two protagonists? What would Philip K. Dick have said after he wrote A Scanner Darkly? Probably that whether you are in the game or out of it, you take part in it, whichever position you choose, and pay for playing, if life is a game. You will anyhow lose your initial stand right there, since there is no movement if you are still, no game to play, and in order to be here, you must move / play / be part of it.
“when i get back home, elise says / there was a phone call, a pleading voice / insisting that we must abandon / the search, that it is hopeless / just hopeless.” Which Kafkian search is Posamentier alluding to in The good winds will blow?
A search that reaches macabre tinges in Elise brings the prophets: “but where her eyes / once were, twin volcanoes now simmer, / the slow ripples protecting the sacrificial angel.” A crude expressionistic realism, by which Max Ernst comes to mind, interspersed by dreamy escapes that transform any image as soon as it is outlined, Posamentier’s poetry awakens to different rooms. She is undoubtedly conscious of her technique, and her last poem, Look, I haven’t really got time, unreels the film, thus destabilizing the few positive references the reader holds: the vineyard becomes poisonous, the saving “blue light” is turned into “terrific blue spells,” and what was initially a throne:
you know how i don’t like to talk about resurrections
can we get out of here?
i assist her up from her throne
(Elise & Caracas, Venezuela)
becomes “a castle / with a ‘for sale’ sign on it, / elise & i are fixing it up”
Posamentier would never drop her readers with a tangible image, this has already been made implicit and explicit since the start. Her last line projects into the unknown, just the way life does:
till the morning comes.
Anny Ballardini lives in Italy. She has recently received a PhD, has an MFA and is an Interpreter and Translator. You can find her books in print and online.