Oyster Boy Review 17  
  Fall 2003
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Political Personal

Delacey Skinner

The Gorgon Goddess.
Evie Shockley.
Carolina Wren Press Poetry Chapbooks #4, 2001.
29 pages, $12.95 (paperback).
ISBN: 0932112439

The Gorgon Goddess's 15 poems draw together the compass points of Evie Shockley's lyrical world: the personal, the political, the longing for human connection, and the maturing that happens in the space of connection lost or missed. Shockley blurs the lines between polar opposites, frequently contextualizing one experience in the terms of another, as in "African Woman Survives Middle Passage," where sea-soaked imagery describes a woman's experience with a brutal lover, underpinned by echoes from the slave trade: "The seashell hands heaved me from the bed / into a wash of spent lust. I / retrieved my soaking head and heart, squeezed / them dry like sponges." The complex imagery invites contemplative rereading, each word explosive with meaning.

Letting the mood of the poem dictate the style, Shockley sometimes writes within the boundaries of formality, but other times, foregoes capitalization or eliminates punctuation. Though her style vacillates between traditional and modern influences, her language and references are as contemporary as Prince's lyrics interwoven with the lines of "Double Bop for Ntozake Shange," or the line from a Public Enemy song that opens "Mama Put Out the House Fire All by Herself."

"The Ballad of Anita Hill" and "Who Dunnit?," a lament for the lost militant image of Rosa Parks, give voice to the poet's political vision of America. In more intimate pieces, Shockley explores marriage ("The Jolly Roger"), intoxicating love ("You Remind Me"), and a father-daughter relationship ("Daddy's Girl"). But her most ambitious poem, "Miles's Muse," spans intimate and public experience, shifting points of view, and challenging the limits of poetic form. The Gorgon Goddess poems never fail to remind us that the personal is inseparable from the political, that our longing is inevitable, that in the end we can, if nothing else, find solace in the words.