Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life's Panorama in Poetry: A Micro-review of Margaret Boothe Baddour's Scheherazade

Life’s Panorama in Poetry: A Micro-review of Margaret Boothe Baddour’s Scheherazade
“Musings” for July 2

The title poem of Margaret Boothe Baddour’s new collection of poetry, Scheherazade (St. Andrews Press), is an allusion to the Persian classic One Thousand and One Nights, source of such familiar stories as Sinbad, Ali Baba, and Aladdin. Scheherazade is the main character of the “frame story” of this ancient collection. Her character is the narrator for all of the other stories, as she fends off a royally-decreed assassination each night by telling a new story. Not surprisingly, the stories she tells run the gamut of human experience.

So it is with Baddour’s poetry. Alternately funny and tragic, personal and political, literal and metaphysical, honest and sublime, the poems are at once hauntingly familiar and powerfully unique. Rich in memorable imagery, approachable narrative, and sincere emotion, Baddour crafts a collection that any reader will find pleasurable and meaningful.

To illustrate these points, I’m reprinting two very different poems from Scheherazade. The first is a clear example of the gravity her poems can convey; the second of its frequent levity.

No Bloodshed During Snowfall

“The snow dusted neighborhoods Shiite and Sunni alike, faintly falling, as James Joyce wrote, like the descent of their last end, the living and the dead . . . . A flurry is a swift and passing joy.”
--Associated Press, January 12, 2008

The long-haired Filipino kid with dolorous eyes
sits up front with me. Two more and a small Chinese girl,
Suk Li, called Shirley, ride in back.
We have feasted
on Lebanese food at Neo Monde--kibi, tabooly, laban--
and studied together for hours at the Museum of Art:
Roman torsos, Egyptian heads, African masks,
Melanesian pipes, a Wyeth house, an O’Keeffe church,
a modern collage of gun, funnel, barbed wire and rocks,
early American portraits. “Those men--“ Shirley pointed
to three be-wigged people on the wall “--look like--
your Founding Fathers?” The black security guard
has taken our laughing picture before a mobile with flowers
and butterflies shaped like a fighter plane.
Now the radio says
that it has snowed in Baghdad after eighty years. We pass
a row of crabapple trees blooming deep pink in January.
“A flurry is a swift and passing joy.”

Ravages of the D&L Tree Service, Mercenaries, Insured

No novocain could dull me
from these tree men and their trampling feet.
No doors deafen me
from electric handsaw, yellow grinder
that chew and spew
a tossed salad of branches, leaves and bird nests.
These tree men swarm
over the grass like soldiers of fortune.
They scatter debris.
Their great boots stamp both lilies and petunias.
To tame a tree
they dig in their spikes like deadly cowboys.
They gulp ice water.
They drag amputated limbs across the lawn.

And when they go:
an absence of noise--a space, a vacuum
graver than their presence.
Where the pine tree once dripped wisteria:
the stump wet with sap.
Sawdust spatters the broken ground.
The dogwood, the tulip tree
the quince bushes flip their leaves in the evening air
while I grieve
for what I chose to lose and now
must live without.

Baddour will be a featured reader along with Jessie Carty at Poetry Hickory on Tuesday, July 14 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory starting at 6:30.


  1. it was such a pleasure to hear Margaret read! and to be in her company :) I am so looking forward to reading her book! Wish my video of the vent had worked out :(

  2. Wow. You look 128 months younger than myself. Great, great, love the sample. Thanks for the high resolution JPEG image................
    spoildn8410@youtube is the Blogger. A post to my greatest Lit instructor. I just happened across this blog. It was mysterious and must have been the will of the local coven that I find you have a new poem collection. ~Haven't seen or heard from you since you "went to the dogs". GL David Southerland. 28551

    La Grange, NC