Red Canoe: Love In Its Making
by Joan Cusack Handler
The Red Canoe is a work of tremendous metaphoric complexity and richness, in which a woman’s pain – braided into a troubled marriage, branded upon an injured body – ultimately finds relief in the transformative power of language. Joan Cusack Handler’s dual guises as therapist and poet merge as one in this healing book which, in the end, is an articulation of a keen intellect animated by heart and hope.
— Raphael Campo, M.D.
When I began to read The Red Canoe... I wondered about the bizarre shapes and halts of the words and ...letters on the page. Slowly, their meaning visited me. These poems invite their reader into private, hidden, unutterable spaces—the cul-de-sac behind the cervix, the gaps between adjoining vertebral bodies, the marriage bed. What courage it must take to see with this dramatic, piercing gaze. In acts not of anatomy but of vivisection, the blade of sight cuts through skin, fat, fascia, down to bone. Handler finds the most fundamental elements of that which is caught in her net—the cruelty of Catholics and Freudians in their ...unforgiving sneers at their deepest selves, the remote but tender silence of the grey-eyed husband who can only steal looks at his wife, the possession so intense of the son that it can only be rendered in prose.
Love here exceeds its bounds. Spilling over into body, food, sex, childhood, appetites, ideas, and pain, the poems achieve a brilliant fusion of the particular and the universal, the seen and the undergone, the body and the self. We are lustier, brawnier, better-fed beings for the prospects of Handler’s gifts.
— Rita Charon, M.D., Ph.D, Program in Narrative Medicine,
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
In The Red Canoe: Love in Its Making Joan Handler brings both honesty and balance to the intricate world that is a marriage. Her means are consistently inventive as her lines enact feelings and thoughts. Her focus is unremitting as she makes the reader feel how much pain and glory can go into two people trying to accept one another. This book is unmistakably poetry but has the feel of a novel – one wants to know what will happen to these people. — Baron Wormser
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bronx native JOAN CUSACK HANDLER’s first poetry collection, GLOrious, debuted in 2003 and was hailed as “an open field verse bildungsroman of adulthood” by Publishers Weekly. Its companion CD was produced in 2007. Recipient of four Pushcart nominations and The Sampler Award from The Boston Review, her poems have appeared in Agni, The New York Times, Poetry East and Seattle Review. She’s Founder/Publisher of CavanKerry Press and a clinical psychologist and lives in Fort Lee, NJ and East Hampton, NY with her husband, Alan, a retired psychologist. Their one son, David, is co-founder of (Le) Poisson Rouge, a music/ arts venue at the former Village Gate in NYC.
Cleaning out closets, I find a plastic box marked
Lingerie: Satisfies Your Desire To Be Different.
black fishnet bra & panties.
My mother-in-law gave these to me,
she pulled them out of a drawer laughing,
"These will do you more good
I am pleased. A mother’s permission, perhaps—
she always insists on the best
for her son.
But this is the set up,
the tease: the place in the triangle
where the story switches:
I open the box, take out
bra & panties, examine them —
bust 32, hip 34;
At my slimmest, I've