Sunday, October 17, 2004

Poetry Inspired By Elvis

The Women Who Loved Elvis All Their Lives
By Fleda Brown Carnegie-Mellon. 72 pp. $13.95

One might ask how a poet with a Ph.D., the author of a dissertation on William Dean Howells, can avoid condescension toward such people [Elvis, his mother, his wife, and a Presley neighbor, Mrs. Louise Welling], and how authentic are the words and thoughts she gives them? When Gladys Presley took her boy Elvis to visit Vernon in prison, did she really say, "Tell your daddy what you been doing"? And when Gladys died, did the grown Elvis look at her feet in the coffin and say, "Look at her little sooties, / she's so precious"?

In the fourth and final part of The Women Who Loved Elvis..., Brown tours Graceland, where, finding access to the upper floors barred, she goes "on convincing myself / that if I were allowed upstairs, I'd retrieve / years of my life... // and think how to live their hard facts." But a few poems later Brown anticlimactically recognizes the futility of believing that visiting the King's mansion would retrieve her life as she stares at a photo of Elvis in "The Trophy Room": "Ho hum, I thought the songs / were for me. I thought we could get along."

In this recognition and in writing these Elvis poems, Brown has perhaps reprieved, if not retrieved, her life. And at the end of the book she adds "one / positive note: I've kept singing the old // songs..." Her own songs may please readers of contemporary poetry - even those who aren't postmodernist academics who love Elvis.


story from the Philadelphia Inquirer: LINK
buy the book from Amazon.com

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