Earlier this year I read a poem on Whale Sound called Book of Gaigemon III by Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick. I asked her ‘Who is Gaigemon?’ She said, “Gaigemon is a dark force. The Book of Gaigemon is a series. Sort of in chapters. Like a gospel.” I liked that response as much as I liked the poem, so when I was looking for poetry books to review during April this year, I made a point of looking for anything by Shannon.
And I’m glad I did, for I found Manaquest. Here is another whole mythology from Shannon, this time built around the sky-dwelling wolf Manaquest and his relationship with three laughing girls in Utah.
The 20 poems in this chapbook form a tight self-referential conversation that nonetheless morphs continually – to the next step, while bouncing off the previous step; one step back, three steps forward. Repeated key words bind the girls and Manaquest to each other and to the action. Stars, cedar, maps, language, letters, sugar, towers, twine and trust are thrown back and forth between the players, inserted and re-inserted into always-differing places in the dialogue, in a 20-piece long ‘unpacking’ process. The laughing girls are puckish and irreverent, flirting with language and the wolf, with danger, with blood, nets and snakes, as girls everywhere deal according to their personalities with foreboding and hopes linked to the concepts of sexuality, vulnerability, communication, and the ties that bind.
This is a wacky and charming tale with strong and delightful illustrations by Goodloe Byron.
Go read it!