Home   /   Poetry Reviews  /   Femme au Chapeau: Poems by Rachel Dacus
Femme au Chapeau: Poems by Rachel Dacus

David Robert Books, 2005
Review by LouAnn Muhm

If I were to define an overarching theme of Rachel Dacus’ 2005 poetry collection, Femme au Chapeau, (David Robert Books), I would use the title of a poem describing her reaction to seeing an x-ray of her broken fibula , Elegance of the Hidden. So many of the poems in this collection reveal just that, whether it is in the daily maternal and domestic tasks in “Apple Pie Order” with its focus on the mother’s hands “above [whose]industry I feel the tears,” or the ways in which a husband and wife reveal their differences in their grooming rituals, where “one augments, the other minimizes” in separate mirrors, “one…wiped of distracting fog/ The other [making] a cheek moon-size/for probing a follicle or pock.”

Over and over again, these poems bring us into tight focus on the things we walk past every day but don’t see: the hummingbird pausing on a branch, the single perfect apple in a litter of windfalls, or the daily tasks that women perform unnoticed as they “Scrub the crud from crevices/…Neaten the chaos of the night/and bake a loaf of innocence.”

Not all of the hidden elegance examined here is pleasant. There are poems exploring the losses inherent in involuntary childlessness, in family rupture, and in death. These poems avoid sentimentality, however, employing clear-eyed reportage that lets us as readers come to our own conclusions and judgments of the father whose self-portrait “points to the harrowing/ his future wives will take,” or whose “mouth becomes ocean/[and] turns his family into rocks with eyes.”

Throughout this excellent collection, Dacus brings a sharp and humane eye to the world around her and within her, and allows her readers “To stand together/ in the light that streams/ from a hidden source in this world.”

Related Article

Post a new comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *