Of Obscurity and Signposts
Reviewed by Jesse Patrick Ferguson (Canadian Literature 203 - winter 2009)
Leifso's debut collection, Daughters of Men, is strong...
The strongest work in Daughters comes in "The Theban Women: a play in verse," which reinterprets Euripides' play The Bacchae in a series of dramatic monologues. Leifso's ability to control cadence and emotional depth finds fullest expression in these dramatic, sensual, and often overtly sexual poems that manage to maintain grace and gravitas. For instance, in "Silenae, Once Agave's Slave . . . ," thickened sound reinforces content: "the summer they spent dreaming / their pregnant bones into liquid / thick as slow-moving water." Other sections in the poem bypass direct statement of meaning and develop emotion through memorable images, for instance, in "Agave Ignites . . . ": "What then could I do / but lie under the oaks, mouth open, / and wait for some winged fruit, / some fire to fall." In "The Theban Women" and certain other poems, Leifso wields juxtaposition, non-sequitur, selective punctuation, and the breaking of lines across the syntax to control ambiguity and deepen the aesthetic impact of her work.