“A White Girl Lynching” by Elizabeth P. Glixman is an offering from Pudding House, an independent publisher of poetry with a reputation for selecting manuscripts from poets who “do right” by their art, meaning poets who give dutiful consideration to the process in terms of poetry as craft. Glixman’s commitment is apparent in this chapbook, as she accomplishes what she set out to do: explore “our ‘feeling’ natures as symbolized by poetry”.
In particular, Glixman looks at human dignity, and how the affirmation of dignity relates to her hopes for a more just and united world where people are better able to coexist peacefully mindful of the validity and benefit of our differences. When Glixman speaks of “lynching” she is no doubt aware of the historical context of the word and it’s connection to violence, persecution, violation. She seems to have chosen the word to suggest in a very powerful and forthright way that lynching is both a physical act and a social act, whereby people are stripped of an “important element of individual dignity”.(Preface,Glixman)The use of power to achieve this is made even more possible by a society’s tolerance of it, particularly on the basis of bigotry. The more a society values diversity and affirms the right to dignity and the full experience of being human, the less conducive the environment for “lynching”, whether literal or metaphoric.
Glixman takes this relationship, and explores it throughout her poems. In one, “Voices At Night”, we see her exploring not only violence but the experience of being a witness to violence and the experience of being unable to connect to the actions observed: “I do not understand their language”.
In “Above The Bleachers” we encounter Bobbie, whose act of undressing connects to her growing awareness of the male gaze:
It could be she learned to swing her hips
The width of the parkway
To get the football star to notice
In “Momma Yells Hallelujah”, Glixman presents the reader with a couple: the husband is rationalizing his decision to leave his wife by referring to Helen, the neighbor who “got so fat, her husband, had to cheat on her.” He is reminding his wife that he warned her, essentially absolving himself of culpability for the failure of the marriage. He hands her money for a new skirt and underwear, but she doesn’t buy them. She brings flowers to her mother’s grave where her mother yells “Hallelujah”. This is essentially about changing for others, about the things we do in our efforts to be “close to love” (Glixman) and the ways that people present one another with ultimatums and conditions on relationships. Again, this is about dignity, and the ways that we often rationalize our judgment and subsequently blame others as people who “bring it on themselves”.
The idea of love and tolerance is explored not only between humans, but with respect to our treatment of animals: animals abandoned, or animals kept despite “puking green”, as in “Rabbi Simon” and “Cat Pantoum”. “Will she keep me?” the cat wonders, and we are pressed to wonder about the value of a pristine rug- pristine but empty and sad.
What is Glixman saying about the value of others, imperfect others, and tolerance? What is she saying about empathy, and our duties to one another? Are there such duties?
“In The Beginning” explores compassion versus self preservation in the exchanges between Adam and Eve, with Eve feeding the poor and Adam brooding, superior, sparing, and yet looking to Eve to comfort him. Who is worthy of comfort? Eve ignores Adam and feeds the poor. Her priorities are clear.
Returning the idea of the actor and the witness, Glixman takes on current struggles (war, religious conflict, land, nation states, terrorism) as well as enduring struggles (the legacy of Jewish persecution) and concludes that in a world of insane leaders and jelly minded followers, we are ourselves unworthy.
Maybe we all will be annihilated
Who knows who is who in this world of sorrow?
(The Modern Annihilation)
“Lynching” is an act that transcends race in these poems- it is a human experience, an execution, a beating, bruises covered in make up, a shake in the night, all the ways we seek to diminish others and control through fear and violence.
How do we make sense of this? How do we speak of the “path”? (“The Path of All Things”, Glixman)
Glixman states that “science ends in our poetry”. By including the section “Painted Stories From The Dutch”, where Glixman writes about a series of paintings and the process of painting, and perspective- she seems to be offering her take on how we make sense of things and how we speak of the “path”: through art, through the languages of poetry and creativity. Perhaps art holds promise, capable of bridging our divides:
“In the mirror we are
the small figurines of paintings-“
(Painting 8, “Painted Stories From The Dutch“,Glixman)
Another review of this chapbook can be found in the archive of the currently closed “Her Circle Ezine”, a place whose inner workings I know first hand as a former contributor. Their reviews were excellent, thorough and thoughtful. You can find that here.
Find out more about Elizabeth P. Glixman at her website here.
A White Girl Lynching
Poems by Elizabeth P. Glixman
Pudding House Chapbook Series
$10.00 plus shipping
To order contact:
Pudding House Publications
81 Shadymere Ln
Columbus, OH 43213
Phone (614) 986-1881