Eighth deadly sin, half-
hidden dissembler you resemble
dwarf centipede hunching
among dead leaves and soil—or are you between Envy
who bites her nails and Sloth who can’t be bothered?
This is the beginning of Sharon Dolin’s poem “To Guilt” which opens her book, Burn and Dodge, winner of the 2007 Donald Hall Prize in Poetry. Dolin’s poems throughout the book use personification to confront complex emotions and other aspects of personality, as she discusses further in her NPR interview. While it may be hard to talk about a topic as abstract as guilt or indecision in a personal way, Dolin’s compelling images and stories behind the emotion creates enough distance for us to view it objectively, even with amusement, while making it human enough for us to recognize some part of ourselves in it. There is a fairy tale-like feeling to her poems, and slightly eerie tone at times. yet they also stay grounded in reality.
In her poem “Entreaty to Indecision”, Dolin plays with the idea of being indecisive:
Anxiety’s flunky – you do in your
———-undoing her grunt work. Heart-flutterer, sleep-
———-depriver it is to you—two-headed
turncoat I have offered up my life.
Because Dolin addresses her own encounters with each type of complex feeling, both she and her reader get to better know the speaker as well as the indecision she describes. Indecision itself becomes another character. Yet, not without fun –
———Not to decide is to decide
———on my teenage wall my
postered boast to live by…
———…don’t I know by now
———what I have to do to be rid of you?
———Or do I?
This playfulness runs throughout Dolin’s work. These ode-like poems on emotions are remarkable in their capacity to bring light to the subject. Mirroring these universal ideas and keeping them decidedly controlled, Dolin often works within classic poetry forms. You can see her adept use of ghazals, odes, and sonnets and careful attention to form and rhyme within her work.
At the end of “To Guilt” Dolin invites guilt (and also you the reader, on this journey with her) to feast on the discoveries she has made:
With your poisonous fangs you will probably eat me
when I am nothing but body; for now
feed on this.
We look forward to welcoming Sharon to the 2012 Festival in October.
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For more information on the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org