Into The Lucky Dark by Carol Morris, who is part of the Diane Wakoski circle, is much like being invited to coffee at a friend’s house where every time you go there you can be yourself and when you leave you feel like more yourself than ever before. Morris believes that life is a struggle but to read her poems and look at her utterly delightful artwork in this book, it would seem that life is also a place that we seem to haunt long before getting to the ghostly stage of things. This takes a bit of getting used to. It takes a while to read Morris’s poems because to languish in their harsh settings of bars and other meetings/gatherings is to feel the freeze, feel the edges of being an outsider even to oneself and then find the self in the touchstones of such leaving: “Houses in which my talents were useless” (from “A June Divorce”) to finding art and abstractions which make concrete sense.
Morris is known for her poems, spoken word albums, and collaged postcards. In the last few decades, however, she has focused on paintings, which punctuate her poems in Into The Lucky Dark. This is a bit like viewing her personal photo album (paintings) with captions (poems) and what strikes me the most is her way of letting us into her imagination, gentle play, and self-possessed personal mythologies.
I love the “Houdina” poems in the middle of this coffee table book: “I should have predicted, / as your self-appointed name suggested, / your permanent disappearance” as the figure in the mirrors and windows reflected back to the poet is both muse and frienemy, a mute presence who is both companion and muse. How do we make friends who won’t let us down? Who will be there? What have we done to ourselves in small moments? Have we been there? This book documents such moments of anxiety and concern: ““I’d like not to have to hope . . . / . . . that you’re wearing rubbers / over your beaded moccasins.”
By the end of this book, Morris finds peace with the paradox of her mental gymnastics. We get to view the poet working out:
I can lift the Guide to Maximus Poems by Charles Olson
with only one hand;
and how with the other
I can lift a fat California strawberry . . .
which is a hilarious image! It fits this book so well. The strawberries are her paintings and the poems are gloriously dark and brave. Brava for this book! Brava for the life Morris so generously shows us!
Into the Lucky Dark by Carol Morris.
Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson has poems forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic. She recently participated in Paul E. Nelson’s Poetics as Cosmology course. Finishing Line Press published her book of poems, Mezzanine, in 2019, and will bring out Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, in 2021.