Alexandra Teague's third collection of poems, Or What We'll Call Desire, is a lyrical, emotional dance between high art and popular culture, mythology and history. The poet ponders love, representation, mental illness, loss and patriarchy, ultimately considering across the pages the depiction of, and the making of, a woman's form.
Everything gets folded together into layered musings both embedded in and separated from the now--snapshots of landscapes and moments in time dissected and woven into each other. Both Hedy Lamarr and Baba Yaga make appearances in Teague's reflections, as do Phryne and Ofelia. Standout selections include "The Giant Artichoke," "End Times" and "How to Become Stained Glass."
"Sketch: Charcoal and Body on Paper" seems emblematic of Teague's ability not only to capture a moment in words, but also to twist the gaze of the viewer from the objects described to the internal gaze of the speakers, and how they see themselves via the objects viewed. In this case, the objects are literally female bodies--models for a beginning drawing class. Teague (Mortal Geography) writes: "How I wanted that beauty/ that knew how not to care: let people/ stare. Let them mismeasure,/ smudge pages with charcoal, erase me." In these lines, as in many other poems, there is a process of making and unmaking in reflection that brings the reader closer to a truer sense of self. As a collection, Or What We'll Call Desire is a refreshing creation of transformative art. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer