Arabesque — new poetry collection
The poems in Arabesque draw parellels between arabesques in dance and calligraphy, tracing the nuances in relationships with fathers, brothers, and partners. With fearlessness and curiosity the poems delve into death, love, and creativity. There are lightere themes too. Giraffes in the living room and dead-drunk superheroes! Humor and sorrow illumine and ground the writing in light and earth.
Advance praise for Arabesque:
Rachel Dacus takes us on a sinuous dance in Arabesque, one that spirals through the world of travel, art, love, and loss. With topics as disparate as the grace and exacting discipline of ballet, exotic travel destinations, tea ceremonies, and images like honeysuckle laden wind, spangled moon, December roses, birthday peonies, sunlight-skimmed pancakes, a brick of soap, Dacus reminds us of beauty and transience with every line. Throughout, the language is gorgeous. A former dancer, she “was doomed to an unrequited love /of this art,” so she tells herself to “do it now on a page.” And she does. ~ Barbara Crooker, author of Les Fauves and Barbara Crooker: Selected Poems
“Rachel Dacus’ poetry sings and celebrates the body and spirit in form and function, freedom and flight. Throughout this world of journey and process, here and there, she acclaims what underlies, immutable. ” ~ Jeff Santosuosso, Editor-in-Chief, Panoply
I’m thrilled by Maria Rouphail’s review of Arabesque in The Pedestal Magazine. Having my poetry compared to Rita Dove’s is exhilarating!
Poems from the book
The changing room was painted marine blue,
with the ocean raging outside,
sea that swallowed fishing boats
slung low to the water to catch tuna.
After I changed into my pink and black
and the soft leather shoes, I entered a studio
as vaulted and dusty as the equestrian stable
I haunted on weekends. I began rigorous sets
of tendus, pliés, and battements, beating my day
into order, leg extended back—as much elegance
as I could poise, quivering, precarious,
in danger as much as those fishermen
among the slashing waves,
though it would be decades before they found
the breaks in my spine.
Arabesque penchée. Anatomy is destiny.
Perched on one leg I kissed the floor,
toe pointing to heaven, Tchaikovsky smiling
in gingerbread violins. I had yet to see myself
as in a body too short and square for grace,
see how I vogued a smile at auditions
and went onstage to family cheers.
But I grew up in a town where you scrambled
and balanced on a boat’s seesaw,
all the ocean gnashing its teeth around you
while sparkling like sugarplums,
and a merciless scherzo being plucked
until the weeping notes rose in their brief solos.
I was doomed to an unrequited love
of this art, gripping the barre in a ring of sweat,
not yet knowing the grinding steps
would always keep me second from the top,
always pushing for what little elegance
I could strain into, arabesqued and strung
out on the music as if I were the violin string.
Kind Words on my Poetry Books
“Rachel Dacus directs her steady gaze on art’s meticulous and sometimes maddening labor, on the deep grief and explosive beauty of a daughter’s attachment to her fading father, and on love’s latent withering and re-blossoming.” – Deema Shehabi, author of Thirteen Departures from the Moon.
“Rachel Dacus turns a painterly eye onto both the nooks and crannies of our world, ‘hints of rose madder in the cerulean,’ a palm tree’s ‘rigid, rattling arguments,’ and ‘the blue immensity’ that holds us all.” – Molly Fisk, author of The More Difficult Beauty.