Reeser’s vocabulary is rich and varied, as befits the high rhetorical register that she employs. How many books in the current flood of Mainstream Mediocrity will contain words such as swage, moreen, sorcière, ruth, cholorosis, adamantine, blains, toile, scullery, and chthonic? This fearless use of the full range of available diction—fearless because it flies in the face of contemporary prejudice—gives Reeser’s work a heft that is sadly missing in a lot of workshopped pabulum. Many of the poems in Fleur-de-Lis require more than a single reading before they give up their meaning to the reader, but only a poetry world immersed in social-media blather would consider that a fault. Democratic accessibility is not mandatory in poems. Lucidity, elegance, and precision are.
One section of Reeser’s book is given over to translations from Baudelaire—eleven, to be precise. These are competent and at times inspired renderings that do their best to capture the strange mix of twisted love, ennui, and sepulchral pourriture that marks Baudelaire’s imagination. Here’s a sample of Reeser’s fidelity to the original text:
None of this is equal to the vile, immense
Slavering bite of yours,
Which stupefies my soul without remorse.
And carting dizziness,
Rolls it in a faint towards death’s shores!
Here’s the French:
Tout cela ne vaut pas le terrible prodige
De ta salive qui mord,
Qui plonge dans l’oubli mon âme sans remord,
Et, charriant le vertige,
La roule défaillante aux rives de la mort!
Not every line of Reeser is as close to Baudelaire’s original as this, but that is inevitable in a rhymed and metered Englishing that attempts to maintain the original structure of a translated poem. One can always