A review of The Lady in The Bottle by Rozanna Lilley

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

The Lady in The Bottle
by Rozanna Lilley
Eyewear Publishing
8 March 2023, Paperback, 44 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1913606695

Who is the lady in the bottle? None other than Jeannie, the famous character of the popular series I Dream of Jeannie which in the sixties was watched by females young and old. I must admit that my daughters and I never missed an episode. Rozanna Lilley also watched each program and according to her she loved the show, particularly the luxury inside the bottle, the extravagant life in Cocoa Beach, the magical powers and the idea of marrying an astronaut. For those who have forgotten or never watched these series it explores the life of a beautiful woman, ‘a genie’, which according to the Arabian folklore, is depicted as a female with magical powers who is imprisoned in a bottle or an oil lamp. Jeannie, a genie, is the main character and madly in love with the man who opened the bottle and set her free. Her saviour is an astronaut living in the famous Cocoa Beach in the USA.   

The author tells us that her husband gave her a DVD set of the first series and that her reaction to the show was completely different and, as most women nowadays agree, found the show very sexist. The poet explains that the series of poems are intended as both fun and as a critique.

Lilley is a brilliant writer. She creates pictures with words. Each episode is a short gem with sprinkles of captivating humour. Page by page we enter Jeannie’s life, we read about her travelling with the astronaut in a space capsule, a yacht or a car, we read about her trying to constantly please her master, and forever hoping to get married to him. The following poem titled “Practice Makes Perfect” is a good example of Jeannie’s submission:

He said I resembled a fugitive from a costume party
It didn’t sound like a compliment
Reflecting I sought refuge between the covers
of Elite magazine, learning about losers and how
to be modern (slipperfetching is seriously passé)

Uncorked, I emerged in a midnight-blue beaded gown
tastefully accessorised  You are beautiful
Some days winning the battle is as easy as folding away
your harem pants and sipping Napoleon brandy

But all through that meal I could only think about
the time I hunted wild boar with Marco Polo
the shaft driven recklessly deep
his glossy tusks bathed in resplendent moonlight

We see in Lilley’s poems a voice which is measured, deliberate and precise. She perfectly balances images, mood and tone, and her descriptions are very vivid. The poet creates an interaction with the reader through images that animate the language and appeal to the senses, encouraging the reader’s imagination in a very subtle way, like in the following poem titled “My Master, The Magician”:

it’s almost midnight 
I listen for his footfall 
the house chafing 
in a haze of Saharan dust

a monkey in a cardboard fez
pushes an empty pram 
whiteface astronauts applauding 
her grim pantomime

the vanishing cane reveals 
a posy of paper flowers
each crinkled 
with garish sincerity

The reader of The Lady in the Bottle will encounter small gems of gender politics weaved very subtly in the poems. The poems also are so intriguing and appealing that it makes you want to go and watch I Dream of Jeannie, but first you must read Lilley’s poems.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is an award-winning poet, she writes poetry, fiction, reviews and plays. The author’s books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Under the Gums Long Shade, Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria, A Call to the Stars translated and published in China and Taiwan, Witches Women and Words, No Salami Fairy Bread, Rambles, Renacer en Azul and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Copello’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. The author has participated in international conferences, has taught Creative Writing at W.S.U. and other scholarly institutions, she has read her poetry at Writers Festivals and other poetry events in Australia and overseas. Copello is mentioned amongst the forty “most notable people” graduated from the University of Technology.