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Dear Suzanne, Poems by Eve Rifkah
In Dear Suzanne, a novelistic rendering in verse of the life of the impressionist artist Suzanne Valadon, Eve Rifkah mixes narrative documentary, lyrical depictions of the artist’s inner life, and her own journey of discovery of Valadon’s life and work. The result is as rich, colorful and nuanced as one of the artist’s paintings.
“Dear Suzanne, a novel in verse, is a poetry of discovery, a lyrical narrative that flows through a sea of affinities. In these pages, Eve Rifkah achieves what may be one of the contemporary artist’s most difficult purposes —to deliver moments of affirmation amid a tide of loss. In the doing, her lines come to us both in time and out of time, as with a nod to Virginia Woolf she climbs inside the painter Suzanne Valadon even as Valadon turns alter ego, inhabiting the contemporary voices of the speaker and the father who mediates both worlds. Rifkah proves as brave and nuanced as her subject, as the ghostly presences of the poet’s ‘families’ animate one another across time. What is personal is offered up with such intimacy that we have, again and again, to savor the salving pleasures of the painter’s eye and the poet’s ear.”—Jeffrey Levine
“’The goat I kept in my studio / had a purpose / bad drawings chewed and swallowed / lines gone wrong gone wild gone astray / the goat ate without complaint.’ As in Anna Banti’s groundbreaking historical novel, Artemesia, in which the narrator carries on a dialogue with a Artemesia Gentileschi, a woman who made art in a distant past in order to survive, Eve Rifkah’s, Dear Suzanne, unfetters a complex series of portraits to explore the ways that making art sustains and liberates in a long and fully lived life of a woman. In this novel-in-verse, with its invocation of Paris and impressionist artist Suzanne Valadon – perhaps best known as the model in Renoir’s Dance at Bougival – the poems explore the struggles and joys of finding voice and overcoming silence through making art, a way of living over time and space and of living within and outside family, in looking at the multiple roles a woman lives as daughter, mother, wife, lover, artist and colleague. Valadon’s story, as well as that of husband, artist, André Utter, and son, artist Maurice Utrillo, are told in verse, while those of the contemporary speaker who looks to and imagines this artist’s story, are delivered as prose poems. The range of tone, sounds and form, the range of emotional relationships explored - mother-and-daughter, father-and-daughter, mother-and-son, grandmother-and-grandson, husband-and-wife - come together in these poems in a dazzling matrix, reverberating against the backdrop of canvas, as Rifkah explores each portrait one by one.”—Adria Bernardi
Eve Rifkah is editor of the literary journal Diner and co-founder of Poetry Oasis, Inc., a non-profit poetry association dedicated to education, promoting local poets and publishing Diner. Poems have or will appear in Bellevue Literary Review, The MacGuffin, 5 AM, Parthenon West, newversenews.com, poetrymagazine.com, Chaffin Journal, Porcupine Press, The Worcester Review, California Quarterly, ReDactions, Jabberwock Review, Southern New Hampshire Literary Journal and translated into Braille. Her chapbook At the Leprosarium won the 2003 Revelever chapbook contest. A professor of English at Worcester State College, she received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College and ives with her husband, poet Michael Milligan.
ISBN: 978-1934999929, 84 pages, $18.00