Patricia Dobler’s poems in UXB: POEMS AND TRANSLATIONS are weapons in a brutal, tender search for the target—the heart of conflicting emotions. She confronts her warring passions, emotions tied to her family or spawned by her thoughts on her German-American heritage. She is interested in odd juxtapositions, dissimilarities, opposites; her poetry breathes an alertness to the contrasts and paradoxes the world presents, paradoxes we ought not to have become so used to. By resurrecting conflicts we share, her poems offer the gift of poetry, recognition.
People share, for example, an ability to love and hate someone simultaneously. Some might hide, deny, or rationalize their socially unacceptable hatreds of other human beings, but not Dobler. In her opening poem, “The Furies,” Dobler avidly explores her hatred for her husband’s mother, an abusive, fearful woman with a “genteel veneer.” More devastating than Dobler’s fury (“The Nazi within me/ wants her gone/ up the chimneys”) is her admission of a strange unlocatable love she feels “for the sake of the woman she never was.” Four poems about her father, a “necessary rent/ in the circle of imperfect human love” (“Against Perfection”), and another entitled “For Mothers” confront just as frankly the family ties that bind both in comfort and in pain. “Whenever Someone I Love Gets Sick I Get Angry” beautifully explores parental love.
Dobler’s thirteen translations from the poetry of Ilse Aichinger, a respected Jewish-Austrian poet, lend her own poems further resonance and illumination. Aichinger’s poems are luminous and mystical, often anchored in mythic natural images. Especially haunting are “Foundling” and “Counted Out.” Though very different from Dobler’s, Aichinger’s poems also insist that “The world is made of stuff/ that demands consideration”: “Haven’t we found ourselves/ in a dark forest?/ No, Grandmother, it’s not dark,/ I should know, I have lived a long time/ with the children on its edge,/ and it is also no forest” (“Winter Answer”).