In today's post I'm delighted to feature the exciting work of L.A.
poet Catherine Daly. In addition to being the author of several books,
including the recent poetry collection Vauxhall, Catherine is a
landscape designer, plant researcher, and historian of women's
writing. I know, could she be more perfect for me?
Here are three of Catherine's poems that recently appeared in
the online journal Fringe
I love her title, "florilegium," which can mean a collection of
flowers or a collection of poems, the "flowers" of literature.
The same unapologetically scholarly sensibility is at work in her
allusions: to strange plants like "stinking hellbore,"
historical women botanists like Maria Sybilla Merian,
"the authoress of Insects of Surinam,"
and botanical references like "flower freaks," which
technically means aberrant individual plants that deviate
from the norms of the species, but which I think also
well describes the queer sensibility of Merian's
17th-century botanical illustrations and maybe Catherine's
haunting, crafted, surprising poems too.
And I can't resist stitching into this post a
reference to my girl Mary Delany's embroidered
flowers, like those called to life by Catherine's line
"the preface is a history of embroidery."
Three Poems from a Florilegium
mine eyes have dazzled days
frightened in electrical storms
of the ‘phone, of the lamp
anemone means wind: opened
by wind? spread by wind?
“flourish in the wind” or wood; beauty’s tears, love’s blood, etc. etc.
clematis with filaments twisted
like serpents, like Medusa’s
spiral stems allow the floating female
come to seek comfort
dearer than beauty
& a picture of cocaine or cocoa
“varied pleasurable thoughts and associations they suggest”
in wet weather, Lady’s Mantle
many narcissus were lost for two centuries
Queen of the Dead
Lady ly Night-
night blooming, periodic
Mona Lisa on black velvet
a Gothic beauty delights artists
named after the authoress of Insects of Surinam
whereof no mention by any old ancient writer
a new name had to be found
the hundred-tongued bird
eats the bitter berries
to cure worms
freak forms of the primrose and cowslip
in the muzzles of guns
renown in other battlefields
Hortus exhortation rather than merit
a hard-fought peace a pestilent agitator
make men as mad as they please
no, just a Quietude, a Nouvelle Vague
on location jungle mists
“our places near vast forests and often inaccessible terrain”
sea-holly of inland fields—contradictory, anomalous
before flowers are perfected: dolphins
to supply ideas to designers
of embroidery, textiles, ceramics
to the green fly”
the preface is a history of embroidery
“dew drop on leaf” school