In the allegorical world of Robin Behn’s marvelous The Yellow House, the landscape and the characters and the sequence of events enact the very fact and drama of human language and human voice. Part abstraction, part narration, all lyrically alive, wildly so, in a musical composition that we don’t want to stop listening to.
Poe, Dickinson, Austen, Virginia Woolf imagined a woman inside a house. Robin Behn imagines the house inside a woman, a counter feeling that makes a startling new work of art. The Yellow House is both an actor and the theater for its own imagining, which is to say these poems come to life in the deep privacy of a dream and in the spectacle of a thing witnessed like a painting, or a play, or like the experience of color itself. Behn gathers the mob of the heart together where boy, horse, prophet, Other carry their burdens and deliver their “swarm of promises.” Behn flings herself into music and in her “constant vectoring” makes contact with the brilliant “yellow fire” of the mind.
I love these poems for their wild imagination, the house as one of the speakers, both whimsical and deeply intelligent, how they build toward a structure that hovers at their edges like a welcome ghost.
Robin Behn is the author of six collections of poems including Horizon Note and Naked Writing, and co-editor of The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets who Teach. Recipient of the Brittingham Prize and AWP Award Series in Poetry Prize, and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is on the faculty of the M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program at The University of Alabama and also teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives with her son in Birmingham, Alabama, and plays flute and penny whistle in the band Waxwing (www.waxwingband.com).