Half Drunk Muse Poetry


Review of Dee Rimbaud’s Dropping Ecstasy with the Angels by Sarah Miller

Dee Rimbaud’s Dropping Ecstasy with the Angels is a dark collection of suicide and other deaths, incoherency and insanity, and drug-altered states. The book moves relentlessly from poem to poem; few readers will read this in a single sitting. Many of the poems are inescapably dark, offering no hope of redemption, as in “First Cut,” which ends:

  I lost the Gods in the land of long shadows,
  In the underground Absinthe bars
  Where the forgotten drink poisonous dreams
  And are doomed to tear themselves apart
  On the ragged shards of wretched dawn, forever on.

Some poems offer a guarded watchfulness, a belief that something new will come, as in “Late Autumn”:

  He hugs himself tight:
  Waiting for the storm to pass
  And for the sun to re-emerge,
  Vibrant and warm, at last.

And a cautious few poems imagine a better world, without the pain and mistakes that trap everyone now, as in “The Apple of My Eye,” in which a father yearns to “re-make the sun” for his daughter and undo the pain he caused her.

The poems themselves are a somewhat maddening collection of horridly cliché lines and vibrant, refreshing images—sometimes within the same poem, sometimes between poems. For instance, “Stealing Heaven from the Lips of God” rips into the Prometheus myth with the enjoyable order to “Steal fire from Prometheus / And spit in the eyes / Of scavaging birds” but ends with the wretched advice to “Find a road / That’s never been travelled. // And always quit / While you’re still ahead.”—platitudes better suited to graduation cards than poetry. Some poems can be skipped entirely, such as “A Beautiful Chemistry,” in which the meaning of love and life are found in the galaxies of a girl’s eyes. But these poems are more than balanced by poems such as “No Daisies,” about a grandmother’s grave. “No Daisies” avoids overt reflection on death and loss and focuses instead on the specific effects of drought:

  Even the lichen, crusted on your headstone
  Has withered: dry and dusty,
  It crumbles to my finger
  Which traces the weathered letters
  Of your name.

“No Daisies” trusts the reader to follow where the poet/narrator is leading and stands out as one of the strongest pieces of the collection for that reason.

The overall tone of the book is reflective and introspective; the myriad narrators are often focusing on a shadowy, vast life (or afterlife). The introspection is almost inevitable, given the dark subject matter of the poems. The poems also often seem to be reaching for a type of universality; how well this succeeds will depend on how well the reader reacts to abstract concepts in poems.

But Rimbaud’s poems shift constantly, and so even the most imagistic readers will find moments of connections in the poems, such as the intriguing tarot card image in “Asylum Antechamber”:

  We wander arm in arm
  Like two senile old men
  Shuffling through a tarot deck
  Of blanked out cards:
  All meaning wiped clean
  From dusty, indecipherable slates.

In their strongest moments, the poems balance between concrete image and narrative introspection, as in the first stanza of “An Epitaph”:

  [...] I’m told the lupus tore the petals
  From the flower that was your face: that your smile shrivelled
  To a dry parody of itself; and that you never laughed again.
  I cannot imagine you, submissive, lying down
  On the railway track, waiting for the train
  That would take you away from us all.

Dropping Ecstasy asks a reader to step into the world of suicides, drug addicts, and everyday individuals contemplating a world that isn’t reasonable, isn’t bright, and certainly isn’t ending happily ever after. It will make many readers uncomfortable—not a bad thing, by any means—but most readers will also find in it poems and passages that speak strongly to them and will draw them back to reread and rethink.

Bluechrome Publishing
ISBN: 1-904781-06-3
Paper and PDF, 114 pages

View bio for Sarah Miller Published in Fall 2005

About HDM

Half Drunk Muse was one of the first poetry ezines. It was founded in 1999 and ceased publication in 2006.

Questions/comments? Email samiller@halfdrunkmuse.com.