Frances Driscoll, acclaimed author of The Rape Poems, has published a new book, Seaglass Picnic: with a splash of post traumatic Stress. I met with Frances over lunch one day to help her type up her poems. She has sharp eyes that will cut straight through you just before she cracks a slight smile. Her eyebrow will remain raised the entire time she looks at you, as though she were an inspector.
Inspection is one of the many aspects of her poems. In her poems, the mundane is magnified and made powerful. She writes about the effects that rape has had on her life and the rippling effects it has had on those around her. In the poem, “Minefields”, she writes:
“It is a trick,” Andy says, “to use perfectly innocent language because you never know when you are stepping on a Minefield.” … “Comb equals Minefield”.
The importance of her work lies in the simplicity of her language and the directness of her words. Although the content of the poems ranges from Law & Order SVU to eating Peach Melbas or babysitting, Driscoll powerfully describes ordinary events as curiously enigmatic as she strings together bits of thought with line breaks and punctuation.
Her shortest poem, “Mating Fish Hum” consists of three words in two lines.
“Mating Fish Hum”
(A Headline Poem)
“Well, doesn’t everybody.”
Much like the rest of her poetry, her statement introduces a new idea while questioning the novelty of said idea. People experience terribly tragic events, Driscoll has experienced a terribly tragic event, and her book highlights not just the stress of her PTSD, but the ways in which she is able to seek solace.
In “The Cry-Outs”, she writes:
Phone Liz. Say Liz, tell me about the cry-outs. Liz, do I scream for hours.
Yes, Honey, Liz says, you scream for hours. One scream. Two minutes later. Five minutes later. One minute later. Ten minutes later. Three minutes later. For hours.”
University professors, social workers, and therapists use her work to teach about trauma and sexual assault awareness around the world. As I work with Frances, I cannot imagine all of that, her experience, her writing, her endurance, roiling below the surface. Her poems are about rape, survival, and life, and here she sits next to me, smiling at me smiling at her. “Why are you smiling so much?” she asks me. Her eyebrow is raised. “I don’t know,” I say. “I am so excited to be discussing poetry with you right now.” She takes a sip of her Bloody Mary and rifles through her papers. I imagine that through her ever-inspecting gaze, she sees poetry in everything.
Frances Driscoll has two other books of poetry, Talk to Me from Black River Press and The Rape Poems from Pleasure Boat Studio. William Slaughter has also published a chapbook of The Rape Poems and you can hear her read from Seaglass Picnic on Mark Ari’s EAT Poems at http://www.eatwords.net/. Seaglass Picnic can be purchased at major bookstores and online.
Book Review by Kelsi Hasden