The salty, shifty, tidal atmosphere Olga Broumas inhabits [in her Beginning with O]—with its bodies plugged with seaweed stoppers and fingered by starfish lovers—is no longer particularly creepy or eccentric. Rather the reverse. The roll of honour she calls ("Anne. Sylvia. Virginia. Adrienne.") is dauntingly familiar, as is her motherly jibe at male poets "stroking their fragile beards" while the onetime Muses go off and share their inspiration among themselves.
She celebrates her derivation from the first sex ("straight from your hollowed basket / into the midwife's skirts") as purely as if she had been cloned…. The only curbs on her tongue and her sex are made to seem mechanical, external as scolds' bridles or clitorectomy. And though there is violence in her writing ("Gnaw back the fork to its simple crotch") she is more, much more preoccupied with caressing the "excised part" than with images of mutilation. She feels, as her style shows, cushioned and surrounded by benevolent poetic stepmothers who have hollowed out a place for her. She first heard the old fairy tales in their new versions.
The poems fall, roughly, into three kinds, not all equally confident, though to begin with the studied surface-life of the language—"crustal, striated with sweat"—conceals their unevenness. The first group, "Aspects of God", work least well…. [Even] the fact that Olga Broumas is Greek (though she writes in...
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