Manderley, Poems by Rebecca Wolff, middle school in the 80’s. I picked this work because I had just read Nora Olsen’s homage to Daphne du Maurier (Maxine Wore Black)and wondered how Rebecca Wolff would incorporate Rebeccainto her own poetry. Early on we see that the connection is through the world of dreams. In her first poem in this collection, Rebecca makes the point that when one dreams, “every character/is you…” and since most of these poems could well be dreams, we see in the denizens of this Manderley, the facets that make up one particular sleeping psyche. A woman visiting the gardens of a castle steals some dirt for her begonia. To hide her crime, she “surreptitiously /kicked the earth with her royal toe.” How did she turn out to be royal, I wondered. Later, in another poem, a volume of Freud appears on a bedside table. Perhaps the reference was to Freud’s view that dreams were the royal road to the unconscious. In any case, we are rarely in the world of “pale reason’s dense mandate.”
Rather we encounter the face a lost love in the fire of a hearth, the narrator’s true voice in that of a little blond girl in Dickens, or the shrill persona operating a restaurant in defensive mode. We’d expect to find sex in this world, and we do, though not of the dreamy variety. The Proverbial Handshake reflects on carnal knowledge in the realm of waking-life logic. Mom Gets Laid, on the other hand, seems a bad dream, where mom (quite likely a witch, as she does fly out the window) tries to bring her young daughter into her life of shady sex and where a lollipop is decidedly not a lollipop.
But back to Manderley. Manderley is a house, and houses abound. In The World is my Cloister, the assortment of voices asks to be sorted out. The one whispering Manderley alternates with an earnest voice wanting to build a poetic world and another that just cannot abide BS. But who is the other voice, pretending to eat her food when the master comes in to view?
You will be ensnared by this collection. Look for the minister straight out of Hawthorne or the dog trapped on the median or the ambiguous sleeping porch.