In The Beds, award-winning poet Martha Rhodes skillfully navigates a tonally complex terrain. Rhodes’ fourth collection mixes form and free-verse, specifically using the rondelet’s tight, obsessive repetition as a means to harness and modulate frenetic content. In just three lines of “Anticipation,” we encounter methodical constraint as a vehicle to control the difficult: “She climbed the stairs / wanting to find them, and she did. / She climbed the stairs.” A master of the poem of longing, Rhodes deftly explores this theme (“I ask little but do ask this: Praise.”), as well as anger (“Hell / was where I wanted him, / next minute not soon enough”), resilience (“I claim Baker River as it opens in a rush. A saddle of rock holds me.”), and even humor (“this bed may just represent my Grand Contribution after all”). Ultimately these are poems that “recognize what it is you want,” to assert, “that should be mine now. / And then it is.”
I can assure you that Martha Rhodes’ unflinching manner of address in The Beds will make you flinch…what’s so brilliant about this book is how steadfastly it refuses closure. These poems, grim and wise, never arrive in the guise of the Good Girl. And for that brand of honesty, I am most grateful.
Martha Rhodes, in her searing new collection with steady gaze and moments of humor, journeys through the dark caverns of heartbreak. Yet even so, true hope can arrive in a flash: It is golden here for this demi-second. Bright. / You won’t be frightened away.