Published by Poetry Box Select, 2018
This is the gestalt of Ego Everypoet,
E.E. (not e.e.), Psyche’s female lead:
To the Superegos— all egos are illegal aliens
in need of severe restraints, ergo:
wing-clipped zoo flamingo,
casino macaw chained to tiki bar,
caged cockatoo in $ Store window.
To the Id named JoJo the Poet—
E.E. is a wildling enraptured raptor:
Rio Negro harpy eagle, Amazon-eyed,
Nile River falcon-headed sky queen,
Colorado River canyon-conquering condor.
She admits to a certain ferocity of syllables.
I can only begin to suggest to you or to know for myself what-all is going on here in Karla Merrifield’s Psyche’s Scroll (“Complexity the Beautiful,” she says)—I sense a life-or-death effort (a constant sense of urgency/necessity here) for Wholeness (“Psyche entire”), for integration of being, of myth & reality, of the rational & the wild, of the primal & the digital, of the cave & of the shopping mall, of Time & Space. With each reading of this inspired scroll, we’ll come closer to it as an ouroboros-like serpent-dragon creature that eats & completes itself, & us, as it enlightens us. But what I want especially to remark on here is that Merrifield alerts us early, warns us, that the scroll will be wielding words. I respect this concept, its threat & efficacy. Hers will be “switchblade syllables,” “brass-knuckle etymologies,” there will be “feces in her skanky pink hair,” we will be “opening [a] papyrus scroll / inked in blood with swan quill.” Her mission: by way of “ferocity of syllables” to stir “moon shadows to slay false gods.” As Psyche slays false gods, her force may even sometimes seem sinister. But all is not dour & threatening: “Surely kickass shit and liberation shall amuse me all the lines of my life.” We witness here sacral intelligence within a revelatory construct, & we’re grateful to keep this strong poet’s wieldings company.
– William Heyen, National Book Award Finalist, The Candle: Poems of Our 20th Century Holocausts
In Psyche’s Scroll, Karla Linn Merrifield reveals a timely and deeply felt extended poem about the un-scrolling of the soul in all of its forms—id, ego, and super-ego. Through the poet’s brilliant use of persona, mythology, symbolism, and allusion, the human psyche comes to life as Psyche immortal. Here are found libido and chastity, dream state and reality, gratification and conscience—all metaphorically moving between the outer life and the search for an inner life of creativity. As Merrifield writes, “The brio of the mind is its will to bliss; the élan of the brain when pleasured/is poetry.”
– Andrea L. Watson, Collecting Life: Poets on Objects Known and Imagined; co-founder, 3: A Taos Press
Psyche’s Scroll is as audacious and original work of poetry I have ever read. It blew my mind!
– Vuong Quoc Vu, editor for Tourane Poetry Press
Psyche’s Scroll is a tour de force of one woman’s tortured gestation, growth, survival, and ultimate triumph as a poet who ascends from a body and mind in bondage to a wandering, thirsting, protesting poetic spirit, to a soul with sight, and finally to a poet practiced in the powerful yet delicate salvation of words. Psyche’s Scroll is an evolution out of the darkness of abuse and exploitation into another landscape where through deep questioning and redefinition, the poet declares and names her true self through the making of poems. Merrifield has produced here her “body of proof ”—a lustrous map for all women and all men to follow into the light where we too can finally discover the courage to declare ourselves who we truly are.
– Mike Burwell, author of Cartography of Water; co-editor of Cirque
In exchanges reminiscent of John Berryman’s Dream Songs, poet Karla Linn Merrifield examines the fractures which paradoxically lead to a more integrated whole. This is not the conventional approach to suffering and healing, but rather a poetic one, where a trickster may appear in a ’65 Corvette convertible and take us all along for the ride.
– Miriam Sagan, author of GEOGRAPHIC: A Memoir of Time and Space
A Careening, Psychedelic, Magic-Carpet Ride
Reviewed by Laury A. Egan, Summer, 2018, Ithaca Lit
In an epigraph, poet Karla Linn Merrifield signals a primary theme of her most ambitious work, Psyche’s Scroll: common traits of creative people are “…an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks…” [Carolyn Gregoire and Scott Barry Kaufman in Quartz] An apt description of Merrifield herself and certainly of this roiling tour de force of poetic fireworks.
“Are you in the mood to let us occupy your mind?” the poet asks. Reader, take note: this is required if you delve into this complex work, one that holds a mirror to our worst tendencies, hatreds, prejudices, cruelties, and hypocrisies as well as showcases our joys and reverence for life. In the beginning, Merrifield blends in her own biography, starting with the story of her preacher-father, who physically and emotionally abused her, and then continues with a series of other painful relationships she endured. Perhaps because of her father’s maniacal beliefs, Merrifield’s atheism was forged (or she came to this view through intelligent analysis). Regardless of the origin, she throws some satiric spears at religion, especially as it is practiced in America, and merges with commercialism. In a quietly lacerating piece about Black Friday at a Florida Walmart, she writes, “Santa Claus, the season’s savior in faux-velvet drag,” and adding, “Jolly, jolly greed; jingle-bell blindness.”
Throughout the book, when she returns to her own biography, she exposes her numerous scars, wearing them like insignias of experience that support her right to be a truth-teller, one who can hurl labels back at our intolerant labelers, those who hate anyone who they consider “other,” i.e., not of the same race, religious and political beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation. In this regard, Merrifield represents many of us who are appalled and sickened by the deterioration of our country’s human and democratic values. Yet the book is also leavened with joy, humor, and the celebration of nature. Merrifield has always been a naturalist poet, an ecological champion, who extolls the beauty of the world; here she dons the mantle of eco-warrior, fighting for the environment (among other diverse causes), but despite the occasional edge, she often resorts to playfulness: “Can the rainbow name its seven colors? Do matter, antimatter, dark matter matter?” She also employs her trademark lyricism: “Orion reclines on his side on a chaise of moonclouds, cirrus wisps scrim his sword.”
Psyche’s Scroll is a deep dive into the poet’s life and, in many ways, into the lives of women. The work is honest, chaotic, darkly humorous, gritty, surreal, and stuffed with Merrifield’s knowledge of history, literature, music, nature, and myth. Is it a manifesto or is this a channeling of her inner self into words, perhaps even beyond the realm of her own understanding? A loving paean to her mysterious muse? As she wisely writes, “The search itself means its meaning.”
Laury A. Egan is the author of the psychological suspense novel, Jenny Kidd (Vagabondage Press) and the collection, Fog and Other Stories (StoneGarden.net Publishing.) Her two poetry books, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger and Beneath the Lion’s Paw were issued by FootHills Publishing. She lives in New Jersey.