Molly Gaudry (L) and Kristina Marie Darling (R)
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Hurray and congrats to Larissa Shmailo, her new novel Patient Women was reviewed in Books for Readers #179. Here is an extract:
Probably the biggest surprise of my summer reading was Patient Women by Larissa Shmailo. Shmailo is a highly accomplished poet, editor, and translator (see my review of her poetry in Issue # 169) . She does a lot of so-called "mixed" media, and she blogs at larissashmailo.blogspot.com. She is productive and successful, and lives a rich life in the arts.
She is also a survivor and child of survivors, and in her new novel Patient Women, she fictionalizes pieces of her life and recreates passages from her parents' lives as well as creating searing poems ostensibly written by her character Nora Nader.
There is plenty of recreational sex and drugs and drinking and also sex work, and brilliant recreations of the downtown milieu of New York City in the nineteen seventies. Much, much sensation and despair and struggle. There are whorehouse discussions during down time about what you want in an ideal client, and there are stunning shocks: at one point, Nora finally finds a man who has potential as a long term partner. They marry-- and he drowns on their honeymoon.
Nora's life is out of control, but the novel is completely in the novelist's control. In her great confidence in her own powers, Shmailo moves towards the end out of the straight narrative into a series of experiments in story telling and genre.
The bulk of the book is the grim narrative of Nora's dive into the lower depths and her grumbling return to sobriety through the efforts of a saintly trans friend who is dying of AIDS. Then, Nora begins to press her mother to repeat and explain family stories of their time in concentration camps under the Nazis: how they survived intact. She includes her mother's stories as free-standing short works, and it becomes increasingly clear that the family was not intact at all. The stories throw Nora into a near psychotic state of remembering that seems like too much for one person to bear. She says goodbye to Chrisis, her dying sobriety sponsor. She gives support to a dying stranger, money to a beggar. She notices that the world is still around her. And then come the poems, which act both as a reprise of the themes and events of the novel and also also as unnarrated evidence of Nora's talent and hopeful future. It is a gamble, to end a novel with so many passages in a different genre, but it pays off beautifully: Nora doesn't forget, perhaps doesn't even move on completely, but she can be with people. She can create.
Grace C. Ocasio’s The Speed of Our Lives reviewed in Blind Beggar Press’s newsletter The Lantern.
Grace C. Ocasio is a former New Yorker now living in Charlotte, NC. Her poetry collection, The Speed of Our Lives, is an exceptional example of fine poetry. It’s thoughtful, intelligent and consistently engaging. Her diverse range of subject matter- Angela David, Greta Garbo, the city of Charlotte, Anne Frank, bible characters and so much more – demonstrate her world view and keeps the reader fascinated to read more. She has a way with words that is personal yet universally understood and it is difficult to put her book down. Hers is a unique voice that needs to be heard.
Reviewed by C. D. Grant
Investigate Grace C. Ocasio’s The Speed of Our Lives
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Poet Spotlight: Kristina Marie Darling on Mapping Heartbreak
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry and hybrid prose. Her writing has been described by literary critics as “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” and “complex.” She has been awarded with a number of fellowships and grants by both U.S. and overseas universities, institutes, and organizations. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in English Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University. Here, Kristina shares a bit about her latest collection of poetry, hybrid art forms, and the act of writing as catharsis.
Your most recent book of poetry is Failure Lyric. Tell us a bit about this project and how it came about.
Failure Lyric began as a series of erasures. I took a black marker to my four year correspondence with a male writer, who, out of respect for his work, will remain unnamed. What started out as an act of destruction became generative, since the hybrid prose pieces ultimately grew out of the erasures at the beginning and end of the book. Once I had erased every last email, note, and inscription, I started to write flash essays, which map my heartbreak and all of the unexpected places it brought me to: Saint Louis, Iowa, Burlington, and the now infamous Dallas/Fort Worth airport. So my initial attempts to destroy artifacts of the relationship became a documentary project, charting the crazy orbits that grief set me on.
The collection features mainly prose poems that unfold in a single story. Did you have a specific story you wanted to tell when you began writing? Or did the story evolve into being as you added individual poems together?
That’s a great question. I definitely discovered the story as I wrote. The book began as mere catharsis, an attempt to move past the end of the end of a relationship. With that said, I didn’t expect the artifacts of loss, and my own grief, to inspire me to write at all. I didn’t expect anything to come of the erasures except peace of mind maybe, or a good night’s sleep. Then I couldn’t stop writing. As the book began to take shape, the order was very close to the chronological order in which the poems were written. My grief became something concrete, a ledger of sorts, which will never be completely finished.
Some of your work has been described as hybrid prose. How would you define hybrid prose? Would the prose poems in Failure Lyric fall under this definition? How do you decide which form to use when you approach a new piece of poetry or prose?
While there are many different definitions of hybridity circulating within the literary community, I would define hybrid as a text that uses the resources of more than one genre. This can range from combinations of essay and poetry to hybrids of poetry and visual art, poetry and fiction, or even poetry and the dramatic arts. When deciding which form to use for a piece of poetry or prose, I usually consider the expectations the reader will bring to the text. Even more importantly, how can I undermine those readerly expectations? I see form as an opportunity to purposefully mislead the reader, offering them moments of beauty where they likely wouldn’t expect to find them.
READ THE WHOLE INTERVIEW HERE