Sunday, January 27, 2013
An Ilse Content Anthology
I've been reading An Ilse Content Anthology by Alexis Wolf for a long time. It's dense and emotional. I love the speaker's poetic imagination. I love the amazing use of words with images. And I love the tone and the feelings. It makes me feel like I'm okay, like it's okay to feel things and need things. And it's okay to think a lot about our pasts and our ancestors.
A theme running through this book, which is an anthology of the zine Ilse Content, is Ilse, who is Alexis Wolf's grandma who died. The way the reader is so often pointed back to Ilse is comforting and good. As a reader, I developed strong feelings toward Ilse right away, and throughout the course of the anthology, my feelings deepened. Oh, how I love her. Oh, how I wish she were alive and could spend time with Alexis again. But she's so real, despite death--the speaker's poetic imagination draws me in, and I feel like I have always known Ilse, though I never will.
This is a very important example of this book's strength, but it's just an example. Everything is handled with this type of dexterity and intent skill: friendship, death, travel, the natural world, sex, gender, typewriters, the revolution, time.
I found myself reflecting on my own past and my own deceased grandma, who I used to pray to when I was a little girl. I would lie in bed at night, praying and praying to her instead of praying to God. An Ilse Content Anthology makes me want to make zines about my relatives who have passed away too.
The images--birds, water, flowers--are beautiful and help my mind do a different kind of work that compliments the work that's required by the text.
The tone is sweet and wistful and nostalgic, but not in a syrupy way. There's a stark realism too. There's a juxtaposition of the very real with the dreamy, or the very real and the dreamy are merged so that the real and surreal are merged.
What we're left with is a magical whole which is not easy to read but very rewarding. I want to come back to this book again and again and give copies of it to the women I love.
My favorite sentence of this book is "I feel blissed, like everything is talking to me."
Coincidentally, I was at a reading in Berkeley a few months ago, and Alexis Wolf was reading selections from this book. I liked them, but I like them much more now, in the context of the whole of the book, with the intimacy of being alone and reading words that seem whispered just to me.
I suggest this book to anyone who knows how to feel things or would like to learn. Ten stars!