With a voice rooted in a lush, immediate present, Victoria Redel explores the necessity to live and love deeply in her third collection of poems, Woman Without Umbrella. With a fearless and insistent engagement in language, Redel leads us, unprotected, through landscapes urban and domestic, contemplative and erotic, as she navigates the self and the world, from love to disaster to “a calm easy everyday” and back to love again. “Could we bear to look at one another // and know how full the heart has been,” she asks of a new lover, declaring, “If my love burns let the wick be.”
Throughout the collection, we encounter the “woman without umbrella,” as if viewing a painterly sequence, worlds in which mind and body lean and ache toward pleasure, “I’m just learning desire makes us sometimes lovely. Always idiotes.” We glimpse the poet as mother and daughter, friend and lover, keen observer and fervent participant. In this stunning and witty celebration of mid-life, Redel reminds us that even though “We are each pieced of sadness,” we must continue to love bravely and live deeply—“This morning we think we couldn’t be happier. That’s courage. We’ve thought that before.”
“Flame, Sweetheart,” from Woman Without Umbrella:
The dog parades through the yard dragging maple limbs.
We envy her purpose.
Here, again, the ending. Nights, hardly. What’s left to say.
Or, in a rush too much, damage fast, old damage, old grievance
“Woman Without Umbrella braves the perilous world of the present in allegorical lyrics of unexpected love, wild survival, diasporic estrangement. These are poems of gratitude for the still quickening of mature eros, the still ‘bright absolute’ of desire. Redel’s luminous ‘postcards to the future’ render our predicament radically legible, to be survived with whatever courage we can summon. Delight with her in a city of miraculous luck.” — Carolyn Forché
“Reading these new poems by Victoria Redel is like slowing down involuntarily in traffic on a busy street. So possessed are we by her radiant wisdom, that inner splendor gained from the craft of fearless engagement in language with one’s powers as well as one’s missteps, in her glorious journey on earth. There is not a single area of your sight-lines, your imagination or range of sensitivities that will be spared. Pull over and read these poems. You will hear your life in her soul-bearing strides.” — Major Jackson
“The deluge of brilliance in this collection could turn manhole covers into geyser spouts, recycling bins into white-water rafts, and then—who needs an umbrella?” Read the full review.