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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher reviewed at Ploughshares

 

ghost landscape mainGhost/Landscape
Kristina Marie Darling & John Gallaher
Blaxevox, February 2016
102 pp; $16

Buy: paperback

In the collaborative poetry collection Ghost/Landscape (Blazevox, 2016) by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher there is no beginning or end. The first poem is “Chapter Two.” So begins traversing a time loop of poems where the reader can really “begin” anywhere. What is a beginning and what is an ending? Is moving forward and looking behind you the same thing? A circle never ends. “Chapter Two,” begins like a bed time story:

“We must have known there was no going back…that morning, before our windows had been broken, you asked about the lock on the door. I realized it was only a matter of time before the alarm sounded, which always seemed out of place in the dead of winter.”  

The reader is a happy prisoner in this manikin-like frieze: feelings are suppressed into the pages of Goethe novel. Timelines, like broken glasses, need to be glued back together. If the reader needs to assemble a puzzle to establish a linear map, one should look to the corners first. In Ghost/Landscape, the edges are gray and decrepit. The backbone seethes.

Darling and Gallaher use color to drip the poems in surprising apathy. In this illusion to the underworld, “Thermopolis as a concept” they paint this canvas:

“The scenery is used to being blamed for such things, red,
beige, and more red with some yellow. And blue and black
and white.

I’m busy looking at everything I’m looking at. It rises and falls as I sit and stand. It’s shadowy or bright or neither, really. Navys and grays. I expect great things from it.

A little jump and it’s leaping. There on the bluffs overlooking
the town I see it leap as I’m looking at it leaping.

If, late in summer, it’s late summer, then it’s late in summer.
That weird feeling of being cheated when the forecast of bad
things happening doesn’t come to pass…”

The outer world is constantly in flux, unforgiving, and ambivalent towards the humans who gaze upon it no matter if the grass is green or covered in snow. There is also an apt correlation: if the outer surroundings are corrected than inner relationships may heal. In the poem “Landscaping,”

“We’re looking out the kitchen window, and we have this opportunity to go back and undo our errors. But where do we start? We mowed poorly around the trees. We didn’t marry well or have pleasant children…”

The landscape reflects a sadness.  There are repeated domestic objects noted throughout the collection: drinking glasses, the phone, a calendar, a television, torn photographs.  The objects reflect how the speakers convey the passing of time: selling them, losing them, realizing something was stolen. The objects may change but our connection to them remain the same. We sell certain objects just to want them again. In another poem in the middle of the collection, also titled “Chapter Two,” 

“Next thing you know, the whole house is a yard sale. Your bed is three feet under other things. Here, there’s still some room between it and where the bureau was, a kind of depression you can lie on…”

The succinct wordplay here illustrates a heavy woe: one can lay down on a bed and make a depression with one’s figure as well as succumb to an emotional albatross.



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The Rapture of Eddy Daemon by Daniel Y. Harris Book reviewed at Stride

 




The Rapture of Eddy Daemon, Daniel Y Harris (BlazeVOX)
Eddy Daemon is in thrall to Shake-Speares Sonnets. The subtitle says so. It also says this new book is a posthuman homage to said sonnets. I have no idea why the apostrophe is missing, or how Harris has let the daemon loose within these 14-line texts, but let loose he has, in a wild rollercoaster ride of cut-up, collage, image overload, scientific [dis]information and post-apocalyptic textual dystopia.
Harris' world is a posthuman one of decay, ruin, sensuality, intellectual and sexual abandon. Eddy Daemon, our anti-hero, runs amok through it, never pausing for breath, preferring to pile on the adjectives, the verbs and the images, choosing to live only in confusion. 'He won't be radicalized with selective memory.' Why? Because he appears to remember everything except his source material. Where is Shakespeare in all this? 'Eddy perfects the idea of degraded origin', apparently through 'divine breathing-in' and 'rapture's canon', with 'lust awakened'.
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Little: Novels by Emily Anderson reviewed in Ploughshares Blog

Emily-Cov-lgerLittle: Novels
Emily Anderson
BlazeVOX, August 2015
158 pp; $20

Buy: paperback

The vogue for erasure poems continues, which is good news. Done skillfully, the erasure poem encompasses what Samuel Johnson called “the two most engaging powers of an author: new things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new.” Srikanth Reddy’s Voyager discovers within Kurt Waldheim’s anodyne autobiography the confession that ought to have been there; Ronald Johnson’s RADI OS (the genre’s great progenitor) finds an eerie new visionary melody within the organ music of Paradise Lost.

Emily Anderson’s Little starts from texts that, in some quarters, are as familiar as and perhaps even more beloved than those of Joyce or Milton: Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Housebooks. In our time, in the light of what the United States’ imperial westward drive meant to native peoples and to the environment, the books are vulnerable to several kinds of political critique. I can also attest, however (having discovered the books as an adult, reading the whole series aloud twice, once to each daughter), that they have a plainspoken poetry, a clarity of detail, and a psychological acuity that earn them a spot not far from Huckleberry Finn on the shelf of our compromised national classics.

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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher reviewed!

 

GHOST/LANDSCAPE BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING
AND JOHN GALLAHER

BLAZEVOX, 2016; 102 PP
REVIEWED BY ANNE CHAMPION

On the back cover of Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s Ghost/Landscape, Allison Benis White says, “One measure of the potency of literature is that its strangeness forces the reader to change her world to incorporate it, or to leave her world and join the one the writer has created.” This perfectly encapsulates the experience of entering Darling and Gallaher’s prose poems.

I admit that the form of prose poetry often makes me expect narrative, and it’s the denial of that expectation that makes Ghost/Landscape a compelling, reader-centric experience. The collection begins on “Chapter Two,” trumping expectations by placing the reader on the sideline of a battle whose beginning or cause you can’t place, making the ensuing conflict as dizzying as a maze. The details render a domestic setting, but with apocalyptic imagery: “Now our train leaving the platform, another dead pigeon near the tracks” and “Not one painting on the walls, and not a single photograph in any of those boxes.” The absence of photos or art signal that there’s no past in tact in these poems, and the dead bird along the tracks gestures towards a decomposing future weighted down by terror.


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Women and Ghosts is reviewed in HERMENEUTIC CHAOS JOURNAL!!

Kristina Marie Darling’s new collection, Women and Ghosts, is billed as a book of essays; however, the book is an ambitious hybrid of lyric essay, literary criticism, poetry, and playwriting. Women and Ghosts is a stunning and spare account of the female characters in various Shakespearean plays partially written from the perspectives of the characters themselves—Ophelia, Cleopatra, Desdemona, and others. The other voices that make up the book include a critic, a playwright, actors, and a female speaker who seems to take on the persona of the contemporary poet herself. This contemporary speaker recounts a relationship where a man dominates her, and this story is multiplied back across all of Shakespeare’s female characters, which were of course in similar situations themselves. In other words—the chorus of female voices silencing, shouting, and stuffing this famous man’s words is impressive.

The book physically appears to be ghosted—most of the text is printed in a light grayscale that may be difficult for some to read. A few, fragile words rise to the surface of the page. Some phrases are crossed out, especially in the opening section, “Daylight Has Already Come” and the two later sections, “Essays on Production” and “Essays on Props.” Darling also keeps her favorite props close here in Women and Ghosts. Fans of her work from books like X Marks the Dress and Fortress will recognize the “good” silver, flowers, fine china, and lush John Singer Sargent-like fabrics, particularly described in women’s dresses, that dot this landscape.

Darling’s work owes a great deal to Jen Bervin's trailblazing book, Nets, a collection of erasure poems using the source text of Shakespeare’s sonnets, but Darling extends outward from this. Women and Ghosts shows us an author whose critical and creative sides meet at a rocky confluence. Aside from the critical sections, the book reads as part narrative and part performance. The duality exists most obviously in the “Women and Ghosts” section where Shakespearean scenes are summarized briefly and below, a different story is told in the footnotes. For example, the summary of Othello’s final scene simply reads, “Othello ends when Desdemona is smothered and left for dead.” However, in the footnote, the speaker wonders, “If I can act like a girl who just fell in love. Maybe then I will be able to speak” (29). This quote could be looked at as a summary of the summary. It’s conceivable that Desdemona would have this thought as her husband smothered her. It seems more likely, however, that the poet/speaker is channeling Desdemona in her own contemporary life.





 
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