Wednesday, August 9, 2017

To Save Lulu, a poem by Charlotte Mandel

Just recently, I was alerted to a poem, "To Save Lulu" by Charlotte Mandel, which I came across on Mezzo Cammin: a Journal of Formal Poetry by Women, where it was first published.

To Save Lulu

Watching Louise Brooks as Lulu in Pandora's Box, 1929

All I need is a sharp-spined umbrella
to shelter her helmet of short black hair,
her tottering grace on little girl pumps
out from the crowded pub reeking of spilled
porter, damp wool, weeks-old sweat, the hoarse rasp
of cockney: "Take Me To the Garden, Maude"
slurred bass "Shut it you gobs"   slammed fists   Swung door
into night's grainy fog gaslights glow of decay

I shiver in my thin hoodie and Nikes
hands bare useless
                          Man-shape of sooty mold
follows the wavering dance of the girl's form
graceful even as she trips on wet cobbles

Two shadows blend into darkness—her door
opens   clangs shut   this is how she's earning
her living she will be bloodied by Jack
killer stabbings and
                         if only I'd got
to him in the street
                         if only I could
pierce the screen with a sharp-spined umbrella

I wrote to the author, who responded "I was introduced to Louise Brooks by an article by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) in the avant garde magazine Close Up - the article is titled “An Appreciation” writing about director Pabst then working on Pandora’s Box. Likely you’re familiar with Close Up - H.D.’s article is reprinted in: Close-Up 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism. (Ed. Anne Friedberg, James Donald, and Laura Marcus. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1998)." Mandel added "As an H.D. scholar, I’ve published a series of articles on the role of cinema in the life and work of H.D. Some are online on the H.D. Society website:".

Charlotte Mandel's tenth book of poetry, To Be the Daylight, is forthcoming this year from White Violet Press, imprint of Kelsay Books. Previous titles include Through a Garden Gate with color photographs by Vincent Covello, published by David Robert Books, and two poem-novellas of feminist biblical revision—The Life of Mary and The Marriages of Jacob. Her awards include the New Jersey Poets Prize and two fellowships in poetry from New Jersey State Council on the Arts. She edited the Eileen W. Barnes Award Anthology, Saturday's Women. Critical essays include articles on the role of cinema in the life and work of H.D., on Muriel Rukeyser, May Sarton and others. Visit her at

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