A review of She by Christine Murray
forthcoming from Oneiros Books
review by David McLean
This book is splendid in its conception and execution. Purporting to be a poetic narrative of the process of madness that led to the catatonia of a lady called Constance, a person who has encountered a being called She in her dreams and become imbricated in a pattern of psychic events involving She. She would seem to be an archetype. She is the force of death in life, life in death, the essentially female and thus, one might speculate, then (1858) to be regarded as fundamentally evil. The character Constance notes in her introductory letter that the dreamworld is equally real to her.
I do not expect anyone will believe me, but I know
that my dreaming-life is as real as my waking life.
Indeed, I have learnt not to call these sleeping
narratives anything other than a different part of my
We can go further, there is no “different part” - she means “another part” - and this because dreamwork is fundamentally productive and creates reality, as real as the real external world is, for there is no real world characterized by the production of real values set against the fantasy world of desiring-production, as Deleuze and Guattari note. The “madness” os Constance is but creation of a world where she/She may live for the socius has given her a world that stinks.
The poems in the book are situated among stones and wood, in a petrified forest of sorts. They are set also in an Irish fogginess, gray Celtic and dour is the world and without the fatuity of small joy. The lady Constance accompanies She in her observations of the environment
The second half of the book concerns dreams set on a small island. Not the mainstream mainland that belongs to patriarchy and the males.
This is a switch to “another terrain” - it is another world but on an island that is also part of the normal dreamworld where the alleged “laws” of nature do not apply. She is the “embodiment of your unexpressed deeds” and thus in some ways maybe like a fury. She is real here for the first time, it is her element and an internal truer world than the false world wherein we live
Just as the pots in which I have cooked
have caught blood in steel, just as
Those very things used again and again
In places where there is no memory -
The tremor in my hand is not of fear at her unmasking
it is of age /ages and that recognition
I wondered at the time if my hand
My eye could tell /
Would live to describe
Of our meetings
(from “She is here now in her reality”)
It is an enlarged reality where the quotidian, even the
meaning that we create for it, is without much meaning. She seems to be a creature reclaiming debts. Even words and what words signify are revealed as devoid of value: even if they continue to signify, what they signify is shown to be less than nothing by the revitalized sight Constance
acquires by encountering She, and She herself does not use
or need words
To look at each thing anew
Those books on my shelf /
The empty vase that bookends them
They were there /
They still rest on my night-table
Each a signifier and each without
A value to it
Standing on this beach of skulls in gathering dawn
Is what I have always been doing /
Bit by bit the /
Treasures of my existence are losing mass
I look again at the shelf/
My hands cannot trace the
Names of the books /
The place where my letters were
As an archetype of female life - sex and bitter love, death and mourning, futile- nostalgia for the lost - that She is, that maybe Constance becomes, she is standing on skulls, a beach of skulls, defiant relics of death. She is words and words celebrate nothing and the emptiness. Maybe She is fundamental truth and maybe Constance could not handle this, perhaps her 25 years in a coma were a sign of her failure, maybe they were a reward, a 25 years spent in an internal heaven.
Buy this book, Chris Murray is one of the best currently active poets. Here is a link to a preview.
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