L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems

Elisa Gabbert

I loved Elisa Gabbert’s The Self Unstable, and this new book has similar cadences, even though these are true poems rather than lyric aphorisms. The Judy of the title is a character in Wallace Shawn’s play “The Designated Mourner,” which is set “in an unnamed, fictitious country ruled over by an increasingly fascist oligarchy” and involves the dissolution of Judy’s marriage with Jack. Aaron Angello’s introduction describes how he met Gabbert and her partner, the novelist John Cotter, and how the three of them came to rehearse and perform this play over about a year, having long discussions about the work and its characters. After their last performance, Gabbert began writing poems from the perspective of Judy, imagining stories and memories outside of the boundaries of the play, creating what she calls a “diaristic interior monologue.”

These poems feel very personal, capturing the despair of the character — which makes me think of this part: “I said desire / but I meant longing. / Desire is despair / with sex mixed in.” Flipping through this volume to write about it, I got sucked up in the poems again. I’d be interested to read the play and then this again to see how it changes with familiarity of the character’s words in the play, see if there are parallel themes and insights I am missing.

Lately before bed

I hear voices—

muffled, overlapping,
like messages
on a worn-out tape.

I look up
“auditory hallucinations.”

I read an essay
about “aura,” the premonition
of a migraine. Of course,

I think—the suffering
that comes before

real suffering,
trivial in retrospect.

They are asking questions

but not for me to answer.
I am the third person.

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