The Veronica Maneuver by Jennifer Moore
University of Akron Press, 2015; 62 pp
Reviewed by Vladislav Fredrick
The Veronica Maneuver is a reference to bullfighting, to the stance a matador takes: legs planted and still as their torso slowly rotates the outstretched cape away from the charging bull. The definition works well to the movement of the collection, as flares of bright passion and close personal anecdote punctuate surrealist observations and streams of consciousness--though, unlike the matador who beckons the bull close yet never wants it touch them, Moore wants the reader to touch her; she is companionable and honest, and draws them in with her veronicas not to take life but share it, or to commiserate on its loss. In her title poem, Moore says “we pour one out for the bull.” The name “Veronica” also allows Moore to allude to Saint Veronica, the woman who wiped Jesus’ face with a cloth as he was walked to the stake, and was left with his impression in fabric bloodstains. The idea that blood and violence can inspire or remind of peace, love, and forgiveness is powerful, and synergizes well with the narrator’s evolution throughout the collection in response to the Veronica Maneuvers she sees when watching tauromachia (bullfighting) live in the title poem.
This narrator response and evolution is further shown through the careful organization of the collection into three sections, each with a distinct voice that speaks to the other two. The first and third sections are mirrors to each other, and the second the parallel realm between; the first section is more observational and reactional and researched and the second is strongly meditative and stream of consciousness/desire, while the third section takes the strongest active voice, owning the experiences and history that the narrator has shared with us in the first two sections. In the first section, a poem called “Instructions for Conchita Cintron, 1933,” outlines the start of the greatest known female bullfighter, and does so through second person address: “you must craft pandemonium in the crowd. / It’s your veronicas that will make it rain carnations. / When you sculpture with the cape, you’ll disappear.” The language feels directional, imperative. Yet in the third section, this poem is revisited through the first person in “Our Lady of the Marvelous Wrists.” “It’s my veronicas that dazzle the afternoon and make it rain carnations in the ring. The audience roars: “Bait the bull, you bait me.” In the first stanza of each poem, the line “you make your first kill in the slaughterhouse” changes to “I killed my first kill in the slaughterhouse.” The occupation of the historical figure through the first person in the second Cintron poem is earned by the directive and factual layout of the second person address in the first Cintron poem--and the collection is full of such clever moves, adding yet another layer of excellence to the diction of “Maneuvers” in the title; these carefully interspersed moments of tangible history throughout the collection (both personal and not) are like the flairs of Moore’s cape, drawing in the passions of readers.