Mosaic of the Dark is a portrait of a young woman emerging from the constrictions of family and cultural expectations into her own authentic self. But these poems do not stop there. Lisa Dordal empathizes with the grouchy cashier at the toy and candy store of her childhood: how can I not/ admire her for her refusal/ to feign contentment; she crouches at the bars of a boy’s prison cell: I hear him breathing, telling him:/ it is a beautiful sound; she wonders if houseflies might be sent by the angels: their thousands and thousands of eyes—make a mosaic of the dark. While this collection is well-rooted in personal experience, the poems branch out with an empathetic and precisely observant heart to give us a glimpse of the mysterious world that threads through us all.
In Lisa Dordal’s Mosaic of the Dark, desire transfigures the world we believe we know. The boy at the center of the poem is a stand-in for God. A mother is a place we’ve left. Two black horses in a cave are manifest, and what cannot be undone is as plain and secret as history itself. Here a bird drags its universe of feathers across the yard, and Dordal is the breath that sends them aloft like prayer.
Lisa Dordal’s Mosaic of the Dark is actually a book of light. Dordal means to illuminate the quotidian until it is as luminescent as any spiritual experience: “I dream of flight. A sun/that can hold a million earths/and a mouth that swallows its fire.” This is the eye of a poet looking to her work for redemption and grace. Mosaic of the Dark is a beautiful book.
Lisa Dordal’s Commemoration moves from elegiac poems that respond to a mother’s alcoholism, death, and the heartbreaking “process of separating” to those that chronicle “falling out of hiding” into sexual awareness and fulfillment. Every poem in this collection is finely made, with quartz-like clarity and complexity; in sequence, they gain the undeniable urgency and inevitability of “atoms, quarks, and auras / and all the love that lies between.” This is a wise and powerful collection.
—Claudia Emerson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Late Wife
Lucid, narrative, unflinching in its treatment of family life, the recognition of sexual identity, gender, and love, Lisa Dordal’s poetry ranges widely. It is by turns devastating, sharply satirical and warmly affectionate. Commemoration is an introduction to a poet whose long journey toward self-knowledge has arrived at a style and voice that are mature and fully realized.
Lisa Dordal’s poems interrogate the obscuring forms of social, familial, and sexual life to reveal the infinitely nuanced and complex realities beneath conforming surfaces. Her ability to find the saving grace in even demeaned and demeaning circumstances is one of the many gifts of this book.
“In the aftermath of the closing of Davis-Kidd, Borders on West End and the other disappearing species of literary places and happenings that Nashville — along with most everywhere else in America — has endured over the last 15 years, it’s important to count one’s blessings. Along with the newly christened Salon at 615, the monthly Poet’s Corner at Scarritt-Bennett gives the city’s verse-hounds something to shout (or brood forlornly) about. This month’s poet is Lisa Dordal. A Vandy Divinity School grad, Dordal’s poems pull liberally from biblical images and stories. However, it’s Dordal’s short-sharp lines that find her best work catching our ear. Dordal marries her Judeo-Christian preoccupations to feminist themes and Southern atmospherics, rendering tense verses about the killing comfort of the familiar.”
— Joe Nolan (Critic’s Pick, Nashville Scene, April 2011)