Elaine Feinstein, The Clinic, Memory
The title of Elaine Feinstein’s latest collection of poetry is at once intriguing and sinister. The clinic is decidedly not the place of Feinstein’s opulent dreaming in language, and yet it is precisely the cause of momentary ‘extravagant happiness’. In the first section of poems printed here, titled simply ‘New Poems’, Feinstein dwells within the white walls of memory after her diagnosis of cancer. In the opening poem ‘Hair’ she recalls her London home:
And we loved the huge house we couldn’t afford, the raspberry
brambles and wild roses in the garden,
our library where my first poems took shape –
the terracotta ceiling and sanded floor, where
young poets often came to sprawl and talk of their
messy lives, and the erotic charge
of American poetry…
The scene is one of bohemian memory: the crumbling ivy-clad walls within which the intellectual spends pink afternoons in back-room studies, nestled in a green velvet chair. But in
Feinstein’s clinic of memory, the ceiling is exposed, and the floor smoothed to enhance its natural material. This is not medicinal healing of the sort she is receiving for her illness. The house, as it stands in memory has a rawness alongside its grandiosity. It is unsuitable and bears its construction unashamedly, as if the space itself were on an operating table. New generations come here to relinquish themselves and their thoughts, tangled up in complex lives and wrestling with desire. Memory, like ...
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