Online Edition: Fall 2005

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Spinoza Doesn’t Come Here Anymore

Colette Inez

Melville House Publishing ($12.95)

by Daniela Gioseffi

Colette Inez has been an independent voice on the New York City poetry scene for many years; this latest and very fine collection, her ninth, displays Inez at the top of her craft. Offering the wit and wisdom of a broadly cultured and highly intelligent woman, her charming cosmopolitan sensibility is welcoming, never condescending or pretentious. She manages to redeem shabbiness and loss with wonder and awe, as in such poems as “After I Ride Through the Country of Graveyards”:

Without sleep, I carried a bag of sadness,
my eyes screwed in above my cheeks.
Now in a dream I call out to the girl
I was when I sailed.

……………………………………………………..
Baku eater of dreams hasn’t found my address.

Importantly, Inez’s poems are not merely about the perturbations, anxieties, or joys of her own life, but about all she meets and greets with a singular eye for observation, compassion, and irony. The title poem, for example, is a charming narrative about the search for a neighborhood philosopher named Baruch, an optometrist who disappeared from all the local haunts, stores, and coffee shops where he was usually found holding forth with profound rhetoric. The poem ends its search with a letter from “Spinoza,” touching us lightly with its conclusion:

Dear Friends:
       I’ve lost my lease on the store but have found
       new space in Hoboken.
       The divine spirit of the universe must be seen
       from the backdrop of eternity.

Her poems are peopled with a variety of others: workers, young lovers, an Irish grandmother, an elderly suicide victim, a Pakistani who inherits the victim’s furniture. And her locales are international: one minute we are in Brussels (the poet’s childhood home), and the next, in South Carolina or New York City, lost in a shabby ghetto or alive somewhere in a gorgeous landscape imbued with natural beauty. The range of form and subject matter is equally impressive: there is a pantoum for Perry Como; a celebration of Agha Shahid Ali; courtyard noises from the 24th precinct; D.H. Lawrence carrying Bavarian gentians up a four-flight walk-up; a ghazal for the poet’s mother; bird song and the syllables for train whistles; movie star lies and love stories.

Through all its variety, Colette Inez’s poetry is about transcendence, redemption, and affirmation. Hers is an ebullient spirit full of benevolent resignation; she makes everyday life vibrant using a delicately controlled craft imbued with an intimate sort of chamber music. As a result, she can critically eye “our longings for the palpable world,” yet also “love it intensely as we fumble / with keys to lock out the wind / upending umbrellas on Broadway.”

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