Monday, January 14, 2019

The Fish / The Virgin / and The Lion by Jennie Orvino (1972)

The Fish / The Virgin / and The Lion
Jennie Orvino
Milwaukee, WI
(c) 1972

IN the many years now that I have been writing about chapbooks I have never before seen on that spun on itself like a whirling top quite like this one from 1972. First of all, I never heard of the poet nor of the Press she and her husband were associated with in Milwaukee. Second of all, I never had an appreciation that Milwaukee HAD a literary community at all - let alone a small press community. Thirdly, I never held and read a book that changed as I read it in quite the same way as this before. It is a condensed history of a transformation from a heterosexual woman to a liberated gay woman - while also giving birth to a daughter and starting out as a dutiful wife. It's more like a bullet ride than a rollercoaster. The life that this condensed book covers in all likelihood doesn't do justice for what the poet was thinking/feeling for most of her life. I don't mean to read too much into her verse, but there are also 3 photographs in the book, one in the front and two at the end which emphasize the transformation that occurs through the book. It's just astounding.

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