Let's hear it for play! We've already got COVID and malfeasance in politics and police brutality. In Terese Svoboda's eighth book of poetry, Theatrix: Poetry Plays, Shakespeare, Beckett, Hair, absurdist theater, the usher (the Fall of the House of) and theater made behind bedsheets ghost through this book to explode our notion of subject and the fourth wall. Though the book also includes a Title IX report, the torture of a South Sudanese governor, Chernobyl, the murder of a NYC prostitute, and god-knows-what those schipperkes were doing for the French resistance – everywhere the poetic line claims its place as a stage for the world. Even the title puns on “tricks” as “poetry plays” at the genre of drama, and the suffix “trix” does the job of turning the masculine POV into the feminine (e.g. aviator, aviatrix). Elements of dramatic writing like interruptions or asides found inside brackets and character names cast in majuscule punctuate, but do not dominate the book as the poetry slides in and through drama. Linked by an absurdist tone that combines the surreal, the political, and broad slapstick, often in one fell swoop, the poems in Theatrix: Poetry Plays don't want to be “put on,” they want to play in the reader's head, the mind being the greatest stage of all.
A Guggenheim fellow, Terese Svoboda is the author of 19 books of poetry, fiction, memoir, biography, and translation. Anything That Burns You: A Portrait of Lola Ridge, Radical Poet appeared in paper in 2018, and Great American Desert, a book of stories, in 2019. Doubleback Books reprinted Treason, her fourth book of poetry, in 2020. She has also been awarded the Bobst Prize in fiction, the Iowa Prize for poetry, an NEH grant for translation, the Graywolf Nonfiction Prize, a Jerome Foundation prize for video, the O. Henry Award for the short story, and a Pushcart Prize for the essay. She is a three-time winner of a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship, and has had Headlands, James Merrill, Hawthornden, Yaddo, McDowell, and Bellagio residencies. Her opera WET premiered at L.A.’s Disney Hall in 2005. A native of Nebraska, she now divides her time between a houseboat in Victoria BC and NYC with her husband and a moth-eared papillion named Fred.