I raced through Blossom’s Degrees of Latitude because the structure—traveling through latitudes—and the form –in free verse— had the suspense and tension of a page turning novel.
The plot does not unfold so much as surprise the way a good lyric poem does. And there is expert use of dialogue. The mother – daughter relationship develops in a few pages, from birth of daughter to death of mother with quick brushstrokes.
The book’s melding of forms breaks new ground. I hope that it gets the wide audience it deserves. Several of the characters are alcoholics and Blossom’s writing in these passages is more appealing to me than anything O’Neill has written.
Here is an excerpt:
My husband said he thought the spinach wasn’t quite done.
When I looked I saw I’d served it to him straight from the freezer, a hard green brick.
That was the night I knew.
So I tried white wine.
So I tried divorce.
Two bottles of Wild Turkey, a bottle of Teachers, a bottle of Canadian Club one shot down, a bottle of Stolichnaya, a bottle of Gordon’s Gin, half a bottle of Beefeater’s for Peter, an unopened bottle of Ron Rico because nobody seems to drink rum any more, a bottle of Grand Marnier, a bottle of Metaxa, a bottle of vin santa in honor of Aunt Phoebe, a bottle of saki Gloria gave me who loves sushi, two decanters, one full of Scotch, the other full of brandy, one a wedding present from Freddie’s uncle, the other my mother’s doughtnut-shaped beauty, the last bottle of white wine, three bottles of red, a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.
The sink smelled wonderful.
from Degrees of Latitude a poem by Laurel Blossom
May 10, 2008