First off, I don’t know much about poetry. You will not catch me waxing eloquently on a Shakespearean sonnet or even an Alliterative Verse. And though I have enjoyed texts ranging from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Paradise Lost, I only know enough to get me through the day (maybe a bit into the evening). So, here is my surprise when I found myself delighting in Kari Edward’s short book of poetry concerning a transgender Joan of Arc.
Edwards’s brilliance in writing of Joan here is not that she merely has written a powerfully thought-provoking revisionist history. No. This is not what this poetry narrative is about. History, in fact, is often at the margins in what I can only describe as a postmodern aesthetic.
The book—dôNrm’-lä-püsl—follows the great figure of Joan as the surrounding world lashes between modern references and medieval reality. While reading, one never knows where one is situated; sometimes it is easy to believe that the protagonist is a wholly modern Joan living through an event roughly like the historical Joan, while at other moments, it feels as though the historical Joan is having flashes of premonitions to come. Whatever is the case, however, it is not relevant to understand and enjoy the text.
All that one must understand to enjoy this text is the understanding that Queer theory and the disorienting of the heteronormative is at its center. With the personified Joan aided by a small crew of Queered historical figures, it is easy to see how the push of the poetry tries to make an association with language and action. Though theory only is one part of a cornerstone for this book, Roland Bathes idea of “Zero Writing” forcefully presents itself as one avenue for why the concise language of the text so poignantly asserts itself with a multiplicity of meanings.
But, I am not skilled in Bathes post-structuralism. Unfortunately, then, I cannot provide much more than brief asides taken from the academic introduction given by Tina Zigon. It is sufficient to say, then, that Edwards tiny poetic booklet—part of a larger project concerning Joan of Arc—is something that any poetry lover and medievalist is going to want to pick up; with cheap PDF copies available at a name your own price, there really is no reason to not give this strange but emotionally resonant text a try.