Source: Press 53
Paperback, 114 pgs
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Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust, selected as the 2015 winner of the Press 53 Award for Poetry, is a collection of contemporary sonnets in which a pilgrim tackles the challenges of the modern world, including debt, divorce, addiction, and more. Sonnets are one of the more challenging forms of poetry because of their rhythms and rhyme schemes, but Foust is never shy in her word choice nor the selection of each poem’s topic. Her pilgrim is like Dante in the Divine Comedy, who searches for truth, beauty, and love, but unlike him, those concepts can manifest in very different ways. In Foust’s modern version, the Pilgrim comes from a place of instability in which her father “smelled like failure because/he could not pay the bills.” (“The Prime Mover,” pg. 15)
From the seven deadly sins overheard at a party to party etiquette, the shallowness of Pilgrim’s cloud is seen through judgmental eyes, even as the Pilgrim seeks solace in the bathroom with the newspaper. She buries her head in the sand to avoid the realities of the world around her — the lack of depth and mindfulness — and she’s paralyzed with fear and inaction. The juxtaposition between her upbringing with the new life of high-end parties, among the elite with their own yachts and mansions, is stark.
From “Wrath, Talking about ‘The Change'” (page 10)
‘Menopause is a bitch and, trust me, not
one in heat. Black cohosh and primrose,
soy, and those compounded creams
you rub on your belly. Yuck, and none of it
works–I still hot-flash like a neon sign
in a full grand mal fir, I still rail
From “Indentured” (page 14)
Pilgrim’s own teeth, like her parents’, are soft
as chalk and will not bleach quite white.
She recalls how her father used to swoop
into the room, vanting to suck her blood,
his bridge boiling Polident blue in a cup
The search for more begins as a slow burn as Pilgrim recognizes the folly of the high-end Fifth Avenue “subway coat” and the use of the Escalade to drive the kids to sports. There is the danger that she will fall in love with that life and all that it offers, even if it is shallow and unfulfilling. With references to Hamlet and other classics, Foust has created a ripe mixture of classic and contemporary poetry within a classic form, which readers can and will spend hours ruminating over. The urgent need to undergo a pilgrimage is tempered by Pilgrim’s awareness that the journey will take an emotional, spiritual, and moral toll. In spite of those challenges, she sets off.
Paradise Drive by Rebecca Foust is a masterful work about the search for meaning in meaninglessness and the search for fulfillment in a world abound with distractions and shallowness. Foust is a rare talent and her sonnets are masterful, but modern and fresh.
About the Poet: