tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Eleanor

Eleanor by Amanda Earl
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Apr 21, 2011

bookshelves: poetry
Read in April, 2011

Amanda Earl & I befriended each other here on GoodReads & we traded bks: I sent her a copy of my "footnotes" & she sent me 6 chapbks & a broadsheet. The mere fact that she wd trade (not everyone on GoodReads will) predisposed me to liking her.

I probably tried to organize her work chronologically so that I cd read it that way. As such, this work, from 2007, was the 1st one I read. If I were writing this review in a different context I'd probably review all that I rc'vd in one review. However, on GoodReads, where people are looking for individual reviews of individual bks, that seems somewhat inappropriate. Maybe a few references to multiple works will sneak in.

"Eleanor" is named after "Eleanor of Aquitaine" - the only woman to ever be both queen of France & of England. Of the 5 other chapbks that Earl sent me, 2 others are also named after strong women historical figures: "Ursula" & "Kiki". No doubt Eleanor led an interesting life & had a forceful personality. Whether I wd like her or not is a different story - after all, she supported the Crusades (the attempt to impose Christinanity on Muslim parts of the world) so she must've been a pretty pompous & arrogant shit. So, I wonder: Why does Earl choose her as a subject? The obvious, & perhaps incorrect, answer might be that women who attain power are sometimes used as role models for women to help them feel empowered by proxy & by possibility: 'SHE did it & so can you!' What if Genghis Khan were my role model as a man?

W/ that objection aside, I enjoyed this bk anyway - maybe b/c I don't know enuf about the historical Eleanor to've really experienced the reading of this in that context. At most, perhaps, I read the fragmented lines as if they were phrases picked from a bio of Eleanor chosen for their likable (to Earl) independence as phrases - w/ phrases of Earl's own creation thrown in to modernize things. I don't think that's how Earl wrote this but imagining it as such substantially increased my enjoyment.

As usual, the technical limitations of writing a review here don't allow for putting spaces between words & phrases on the same line. As such, I can't do justice to Earl's layout. Instead, I'll quote the phrases entirely as separate double-spaced lines. Here's the 1st p:

"all night on a curb where you expect to find me

music and tin cans rattle

between heartbeats

ive been waiting

somehow and lost myself

a wall i cant climb

can see over

my hairs

a mess i stink

ripe as the plague

buildings

taller than castle towers

mirrored sky

no pyrenees

no black

sea

no plantagenet

few houses stained

glass

a cross

i could sing

fall on my knees

pray

help

less

to march out of paris for this

history recounts others undermine

legend substance of sidewalk chalk

am

invisible"

There're no caps & there's no punctuation. That's not an uncommon technique - I usually interpret it as a sortof leveling device. I read this p as if the author's translating her feeling-of-Eleanor into her own body/experience - & that seems born out somewhat by the GoodReads description of the bk (supplied by the author):

"Eleanor of Acquitaine is lost and wandering in the present day, musing about Henry and Louis, her children, being locked up in a castle, the Crusades and beer."

Whatever the case, this poem made me curious to learn more about Eleanor of Aquitaine - crusading shit or not, she must have a fascinating bio.
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