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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reader's Diary #210- Kathy Shaidle: Lobotomy Magnificat (up to "Dusting For Fingerprints in Hamilton, Ontario")


In school, my typical answer to "fitting the curriculum in" is to work"cross-curriculum". Easier said than done, the key is finding overlaps in various subjects and working on mutual or complimentary objectives at the same time. I've typically taught primary grades so history hasn't been an issue, but Kathy Shaidle's Lobotomy Magnificat could offer help in fusing History and English in high school.
I've seen plenty of poems that touch upon historical figures, but I haven't seen that many entire collections as preoccupied with history as this one (and few that do it as well). John F. Kennedy, Jack Ruby, Thomas Merton and Evelyn Dick are just some of Shaidle's targets (sorry JFK, bad choice of words). Yet while Shaidle's focus seems to be historical events and people, her poems are quite well varied. Shaidle often becomes the character, changing the voice like a professional impressionist. At other times she looks at events through a poet's glasses, comparing Kennedy's assassination to a thunderstorm for instance.
A favourite is "Restoration Conspiracy Notebook". Telling the bizarre story of Laszlo Toth, Shaidle writes in matter-of-fact sentences (that remind me of the Kids In The Hall fact girl). It opens with the line, "The Pieta is a marble statue of the Virgin Mary holding/ the body of Christ" and retells the ordeal of it's destruction and restoration while occasionally throwing in references to rapes, abortions and Catholic interference/influence. Some of the contrasted images could easily cause a reader to jump to conclusions about Shaidle's point- perhaps Toth's actions are a symptom of global and historical hatred towards women? Yet! Shaidle cleverly takes the heavy topics and covers them in a "Conspiracy" gloss which not only takes the edge off, but leads the reader to question if her theories were simply meant as satire.

3 comments:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Ooo, you had me at the KITH fact girl! Cross-curriculum, multi-tasking, however you want to look at it, it sounds as though one gets their money's worth here.

John Mutford said...

Or your library card's worth (in my case).

Any idea where the fact girl is now?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Good question! That is worth a google search.