A Special Gift for Language
Joseph S. Salemi
Review of: Jennifer Reeser, Fleur-de-Lis
Sulphur, LA: Saint James Infirmary Books, 2016
This is Jennifer Reeser’s fifth collection of poetry, and it lives up to the promise of her previous work. Here are forty-nine excellent poems in a variety of forms (sonnet, ballade, villanelle, Sapphic stanza, chant royal, monorhyme triplets, blank verse, and ottava rima), all meticulously done in the careful style we have come to expect from this accomplished writer. Many have previously appeared in a wide variety of journals (some first saw the light of print here in TRINACRIA), but others are new to me, and I have read them with delight.
Fleur-de-Lis is a book of encounter and amalgamation. It brings together the colonial French heritage of New Orleans-Louisiana and the standard ideal of Paris—the latter city with its environs and monuments serving as a kind of Ur-France which reflects, judges, and ultimately mixes with the author’s Dixie homeland. Reeser’s The Lalaurie Horror was pure New Orleans, as garish as a carnival mask and as oozy as Bourbon Street. Fleur-de-Lis goes back to l’hexagone, as the French term their country, using the markers of Paris and Baudelaire’s poetry as touchstones with which Reeser can compare, contrast, and finally conjoin New Orleans to the older city. The last section of her book (Paris to Orleans) does this explicitly, as in the poem “Transformation,” which begins: