Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review of "Costumes Exchanging Glances" by Mary Jo Bang

"Costumes Exchanging Glances" by Mary Jo Bang was offered by Poets.org's Poem-A-Day on February 26, 2014.  A link to the poem, including the poet's notes, may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23890.

Mary Jo Bang (b. 1946) is a Professor of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  She is the author of seven published books of poetry and the recipient of many prestigious literary awards and honors, including a Pushcart Prize and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship.  Additional biographical information as well as links to additional poetry by Bang may be found here:  http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/548?utm_source=PAD%3A+Costumes+Exchanging+Glances+by+Mary+Jo+Bang&utm_campaign=poemaday_022614&utm_medium=email.

The poet reveals in her notes that the Russell to which she refers is Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970) (pictured left).  Additional information about this Nobel Prize winning philosopher may be found here:  http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1950/russell-bio.html.

Bang further reveals that the "they" in her poem is the German Jewish philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin (1892 - 1940) (pictured right).  Additional information about this short lived, enigmatic figure may be found here:  http://www.egs.edu/library/walter-benjamin/biography/.

"Costumes Exchanging Glances" is presented in nine lines of irregular free verse.  The first line is indented for reasons which are unclear.  The poem begins with a metaphor comparing the light of rhinestones to pretend stars.  The theme of light is continued in the fifth line, where light and its after image are used as metaphor for the fleeting uncertainty of life.  Quotes or paraphrases from Russell and Benjamin feature prominently.

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