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Freud is the real villain of the piece; his theory of the psyche involves a massive theft by the ego of everything that goes on beneath it, in the depths of the unconscious. Siggy’s rationalism justifies the scourging of the dark side of human nature. He is ruthless, unyielding in his zeal to conquer these depths, and in him are all the lurid forecastings of world wars and technological inventions for controlling nature. While the genius of the Renaissance in effect paints his selfportrait in the guise of a woman’s ineffable smile, Freud writes his analysis of genius in grim, authoritarian language. The two men are versions of the same polarized human nature that would end alchemy, witchcraft, the occult sciences; ban tarot and earth worship; and bring about the terrors of the Inquisition and the conquest of the Americas. In fact, American Indians make frequent appearances in the last quarter of the text to remind us of the fate of indigenous America under this sort of mind. Owens, who lives in Norman, Oklahoma, was writing Luca at the time when Timothy McVeigh. and Terry Nichols blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, another leap back into our beast nature. Now the World Trade Center towers are reduced to smoke and ash by creatures out of the same inarticulate extreme, as if all such human energies were escaping from a vent of an excluded reality, assaulting the symbols of their oppression. Owens has been writing for the past 35 years about just such tragic collisions between isolated reason and repressed instinct, between the controlling human intellect and savage nature. But the proper gateway into Owens’ world of primordial modernism is through her New and Selected Poems, 1961-1996 books of poetry and selects what is clearly some of her strongest work. There is no evolution here, either; only a growing certainty in the voice she invented back in the late 1950s. Her work moves with increasing grace \(and tions of the nature of her Speakers. In a startling poem near the end of the book, “Devils Clowns and WoMen,” taken from How Much Paint Does the Painting Need remembers being brought to America in her dirndl, conjuring an image of a grateful, smiling, slightly simpering immigrant. But the poem keeps slithering forward past flirtatious remarks to threats to a David Lynch-like climax, in which she announces: I am part Of a long migration of fearless lesbians hardly . t as the witch in fairytales concocting potions of flowing menstrual blood eating young arin Lessing’s book, In the Aviary of Voices, is the work of a poet who secretes lines’ slowly, carefully, with no sense of hurry. And she does her compOsing’ in a small, minimally equipped cabin ‘up on a hill above her orchard and little farm in the heart of Provence. She took me there one day and let me absdrb the silence of the clean, simple space she created with a low desk, a few books, a mat for sitting, the gold sunlight pouring through the windows from the nearby woods. These elements circulate in her poems, after years of discipline in refining her language. Here she is on love, from “Under Sirius”: fever star, burning in the thick of sleep I hear drilling itself into the summer’s heart Lessing squeezes language down to essences, to incandescent little gists, as if she were compressing coal to make a diamond here and there, and she has quite a few diamonds scattered across this book: in the lava bed glows rubbed smooth, all those wishes the ice would bud On the psychology of letting go of someone, she writes this plaintive, perfect language: the irregular progression offorget friness roots in the eyes, beginning there gulls on bare islands: “111011 amour! mon amour!” as white on white obliterates. If America keeps lopping off the extremesthe highs and the lows of cultural lifeand encourages only a middle ground to stuff us, mesmerize us, we’ll go on living without knowing how ideas form, where they come from ‘before they trickle down into commercial forms of expression; we won’t get to see the limits of art sketching themselves into existence somewhere in Norman or in southern France. We’ll just get the finished, tamed, domesticated, market-tested middling product of imagination and go on believing everything is pat, regulated, predictable unless of course some terrorist strikes to remind us we are living in a fool’s paradise. Poet and essayist Paul Christensen has been a professor of English at Texas A&M University since 1974. His most recent book is West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas. 1/18/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27