Some Mad Women - Poem by gershon hepner
Tragic victim, Sylvia Plath,
poured on patriarchy wrath.
In the attic mad Virginia
showed less anger, somewhat sinnier.
Bohemian without a garret
Elizabeth loved Robert Barrett.
a virgin, Emily, and hermit,
her poems parked without a permit.
Saxon, suicidal Anne,
loved some women like a man.
Bi and curious for sex,
Frida overcame the hex
no one in the world expects
from a lady labeled Mex.
Red-lipped with a dark moustache
she’s the icon for the rash
emotions stirring poetesses
whose certainties depend on guesses.
Yxta Maya Murray reviews “The Incantation of Frida K, ” by Kate Braverman (Seven Stories Press) in “Life is Elsewhere” (The Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 7,2002) :
Naturally, Kahlo's reliance on self-portraiture leads us to wonder about the autobiographical foundations for these various incarnations; Kahlo, too, admitted that style and substance merged in her work, when she so famously said: 'I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.' And most of us have heard the stories: Didn't she have some sort of horrible disfiguring accident? Didn't her husband, muralist Diego Rivera, treat her like a doormat? Didn't she commit suicide? Didn't she have an exotic love life?
It is easier, actually, to grapple with these facts and rumors than with the art itself. With the art, we're floating at sea; we're confused and exhilarated; we're indicted with felonies we didn't even know we had committed. But when we work with the facts and the rumors, we can reduce Kahlo the great artist into Frida the troubled and bisexual brown girl: Yes, she had a mutilating accident and had polio; she loved women; she loved and hated Diego; she was a drug addict. And once she is so condensed, she isn't that intimidating at all. We could do anything that we wanted with her, now that we see her sick, strange, dejected, dead. And dead exotic female artists usually can't escape being shrunk to fit into shapes that suit the next generations' needs for Tragic Victims of Patriarchy (Sylvia Plath) or Madwomen in the Attic (Virginia Woolf) or Genius Hermit Virgins (Emily Dickinson, though that reputation is being revised) .
It was inevitable that current consumers would refashion Kahlo's story. There is the upcoming biopic starring the Mexican actress Salma Hayek, of which I know nothing. My worst fear was that by now I'd be watching some soapy network miniseries starring Meryl Streep in brown face and Antonio Banderas in a fat suit. Oh, God, now I only wish it were that, after having read Kate Braverman's shockingly bad fictionalized biography of Kahlo, 'The Incantation of Frida K.' The novel contains a chaotic rendition of Kahlo's inner monologue as she lies on her deathbed. Braverman, a Los Angeles native who has won acclaim for works such as 'Lithium for Medea' and 'Palm Latitudes, ' wastes her gifts of poetry and passion on an incoherent account of Kahlo's marriage, travels, miscarriage and, most prominently, her illness.
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