Review of Apocryphal by Lisa Marie Basile


Apocryphal by Lisa Marie Basile; 
Noctuary Press, 2014; 90 pp
Reviewed by Janae Green

I am in my mother’s leopard heels &

we play house this way.

it hurts to speak beneath this bustier
but if I take it off,
it just hurts.
so I speak forever                      using my inside voice

—From Apocryphal by Lisa Marie Basile

Undoubtedly, Lisa Marie Basile’s collection, Apocryphal from Noctuary Press, can only be read as one who savors the crumbs of a last meal. Her poetry evokes hunger for every last vision—to gorge on every narrative snapshot with a runny chin and wagging tongue. Prior to the official release, I was grateful for the chance to e-read Basile’s book in advance. Nearly ten pages in—bless me father, for I have sinned—I got greedy and waited for the print copy. Basile’s collection is an example of why readers still need the print form. We need to turn the pages; there are works like Apocryphal that readers like me just need to exist in our hands.

Apocryphal discusses the body as both an ache and a crave that makes the passage between daughter and lover claustrophobic but dreamlike—and Basile does so with the sultry con of a femme fatale. We see the red-lipped roar of the female body created by the hands of man and her desire to be cradled and formed between his fingers.

The collection’s often emotional and always fearless narrative recollects nature as a woman and buries her hat in the garden, “hair big with curl & eyelid lined.” Often with a cigarette in hand, Basile’s narrator will not spare your trust nor will she apologize for her behavior:

I would learn to devour everything,
     mollusk & man,
become obsessively pregnant with you,
I mean:            become those woman staring,
& abort you.

As revealed here, Basile’s speaker is not only daughter and lover, but she is Mother. She tears the patriarchal order to shreds without smudging her lipstick. Her mythology is a crucial theme throughout the collection, and we forgive her feign as she continually rebuilds her story.

In Apocryphal, Basile generously showcases her ability to reveal humanity to itself, still raw and beating. With observations poignant and startling, “everything is born natural and then is not natural” and imagery that never disappoints, “like a pumping heart inside an egg-white envelope,” Apocryphal proves Basile will never be dust on a shelf, but an immovable poet, a force. Her poetry will be dog-eared and inked with a reader’s love notes for years to come and then, years beyond that.


Janae Green is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest. She keeps a blog of her short prose and projects here.