My Sister, the Famous Poet

Tom Edelson, November 1999


My sister has been publishing poetry under the pen name of Rachel Loden for years. Her stuff has been in various prestigious magazines and anthologies, and now (fall of 1999) she has an honest-to-God book. I mean, you can find it in the computer at Borders, and everything.

The title is Hotel Imperium. It's from the University of Georgia Press; it came into being, in fact, because she submitted the manuscript to a contest sponsored by that university, and it won. My totally unbiased opinion is that the book is terrific, and I want to brag on it some right here.

This is not your maiden aunt's poetry book. These are poems that bring the shock of recognition to life on many scales, from the "world stage" to you, looking in your own mirror.

As to the "world stage" part: one person shows up in so many of the poems that you could almost call him the book's central character: Richard Nixon. Yes, Tricky Dick, the man many of us loved to hate. But after you've danced with Nixon through Rachel's eyes, you might find yourself seeing him in a new way. Not as a hero, not as a villain. As ... a man. A man with hopes and fears, not so very different from those of an ordinary guy.

And in taking such an icon of the times, and turning him into a real person, she has implicitly done something similar for "public life" in general: suggested a way to see beyond the cardboard figures on the TV news.

But let's not overdo this "poet as teacher" stuff. Most of these poems are also -- get this -- funny. An example, from one of the Nixon poems, has His Trickiness discussing with some friends and advisers whether to attempt still another comeback ... from beyond the grave. His conclusion? "We could do it, but it would be wrong."

What to Do Next

If this stuff sounds intriguing, here are some links to follow:

  • Read one of the actual poems: "The Little Richard Story". (No, this one doesn't have Nixon in it.)
  • Read some more raves from people who are even more well-known literary figures than I am.
  • Or jump right to the book's page on Amazon.com, where you can giggle at their bizarre choice of a related auction item; or, more to the point, you could even -- what a concept -- buy the book.

  • This page last updated: 1999 Nov 26.