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The Arctic Circle by Kristina Marie Darling highlighted on The Collagist

 

The Arctic Circle

By Kristina Marie Darling


BlazeVOX
October 2014
978-1609641955


 

Mercy


Wind shook the fence around our yard. A shadow appeared beneath the window. But it wasn't the marble statue or a deer. It wasn't the birdbath with its small store of ice. The shadow was cast by your first wife, returning after our wedding. So long after she'd left that you'd stopped watching for signs.

 

The garden was all thistle and frost. I was surprised she recognized the small iron gate, the iced-over trees. For years I had been living in her house, wearing her clothes, answering to her name.

I could no longer step outside without my hands shaking.  Your real wife stood there like a buck, waiting to charge.

 

Solstice


After you left for work, my hair lightened. My mouth turned the color of your first wife's favorite lipstick: light pink, with the tiniest hint of shimmer. I placed my old clothes in boxes, started to label them. Then I struck a match, lit them all on fire.

 

When you got home, dinner was waiting. Forks and knives glittered next to our plates. Before long you saw the heap of ashes in the living room. I had swept them into a little pile beneath the armchair. But you never asked how the fire started.

You stood there with your hair slicked backed, smiling. Then you touched my blonde hair, my pale pink lips, and said, This is why I married you . . . 

 

Avalanche


Little dishes lined the cabinet above the stove. When we moved into the house, I made you coffee every morning.

 

The stove was old, but I didn't expect it to turn the bottom of the kettle black. I poured your coffee into a china cup. You drank it slowly because it never tasted right. I always made too much, and you didn't want me to know. So when you left for the office, you took the cup and saucer with you.

The dishes started to disappear. Before long the cabinet was almost empty. Then one morning as I made your coffee, my ring fell in the cup. I knew it was only a matter of time before everything else would be carried away.

Read the whole feature at the Collagist here

Buy The Arctic Circle here

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Requited by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed on Drunken Boat

 

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Drunken Boat’s very own Matthew Hamilton reviews Kristina Marie Darling’s Requited.

 

Imagine coming home one day and finding out that your wife packed all her belongings, and the only thing left of hers was a note, laying there like a cold memory, that read, “I’m not happy anymore. Take care.” Imagine an empty space where the word Love should have been above her signature. Imagine scratching your head as you struggle to understand why this has happened to you. Imagine your emotions freezing inside of you like an impatient winter storm.

 

For me, Kristina Marie Darling’s poetry collection, Requited, could not have come at a better time. As someone recently going through a divorce, after reading this collection, I feel confident saying that I understand the frozen space of a damaged heart, of an experience so hurtful it often leaves me reeling in angst with every thought I have of my soon to be ex-wife from the moment I read her letter.

 

But poetry is good for the soul, and Darling’s words spoke to me like a skilled therapist speaks to a client, or a priest speaking to a parishioner in the mysterious confines of the confessional.

 

These graceful prose poems, no more than five lines in length, describe a love affair that is like a “rose garden in the dead of winter,” which sets the pace for the rest of this 41 page book with its blizzardy cold conditions. Of course, this is all metaphor to how the narrator is feeling, miserable to say the least. She is a dead flower with “cold blue lips,” “a heroine counting unfaithful stars.” And these simple, yet profound lines will pervade the reader with sympathy and understanding, especially for those readers that have experienced, or are currently experiencing, a failing relationship.

 

Read the whole review here 


Preview Requited here

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Going with the Flow by Peter Siedlecki reviewed on GALATEA RESURRECTS #23

 

GOING WITH THE FLOW by PETER SIEDLECKI

JENNIFER CAMPBELL Reviews
Going with the Flow by Peter Siedlecki
(BlazeVOX Books, New York, 2014)
Going with the Flow is a book addressed to anyone who has concern over his own “going.” A poet-philosopher studying aging from the inside-out, Peter Siedlecki explores the concept of old age in a vein similar to Plato’s dialectical method. Standout poems such as “Deciding to Retire,” “Child’s Play: A Retirement Poem,” and “On Receiving a Mailing from Forest Lawn” represent various iterations of the theme. There are moments of great humor, along with expressions of frustration and resignation. As in Plato’s Theory of Forms, the poems reveal the temporal in an attempt to understand the immutable archetypes that provide order and structure to the world. In the title poem, which is the first poem in the collection, Siedlecki offers the reader the first of many contradictions: is aging “a sad death of summer” that happens in gorgeous “blazes of color”? Inconsistencies are brought to light by the poet; the aging man wants “to connect to antiquity” yet concedes “I will die, and you will wail / and misremember me as perfect.”
Even as the poet leads the reader through his study with logic, he grants in “More Theology”:
          We have reasoned god out,
          with our “Thees” and “Thous”
          only because reason is what we have 
          to turn into whatever we need,
          the bricks and mortar
          of which we build
          the most absurd structures.
In fact, some poems are structured primarily from questions, in a modern Socratic method—“Untimely Death” is an effective example of this technique:
            
            When is death timely?
            when it comes like a chemical
            to kill the hideous worm
            devouring the victim from within?
            Or when, in the midst of dark storms
            and hideous worms, it comes to stifle
            the dear memory of lilacs?
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The Speed of our Lives by Grace C. Ocasio Reviewed on GALATEA RESURRECTS #23

THE SPEED OF OUR LIVES by GRACE C. OCASIO

EILEEN TABIOS Engages
The Speed of our Lives by Grace C. Ocasio
(BlazeVOX Books, Kenmore, N.Y., 2014)
There’s a freshness to Grace C. Ocasio’s The Speed of our Lives—a freshness I see in other first books, and that I sometimes don’t see in the umpteenth collections by well-published poets.  (I did confirm: while Ocasio previously released a chapbook, The Speed of our Lives is her first poetry book.) By "freshness," I mean a presentation of poems whose presence, I sense, were not determined by applied strictures, e.g. a project-based perspective, or a focus on a particular form.  
The poems in The Speed of our Lives range over a wide variety of subjects and concerns, a range not hidden by its organization in four sections (entitled “Sheroes,” “She Revolutionary,” “Princes and Privates,” and “Patriots”).  While the sections are certainly apt, I ended up not focusing on their categories so much as being moved to engage each individual poem on an individual basis.  I believe this  results from the strong story-telling impetus to each poem so that I reacted to each one based on its story instead of how it relates to other poems.  
Nor does story need to unfold as narrative—for example, this list poem I found redolent, thus, enjoyed:
FATHER’S FAVORITE THINGS AND PEOPLE
Charlie Mingus’ albums
social tea biscuits
brown wool coat
The Yankees
Valencia oranges
books by Chester Himes
Brut After Shave Lotion
Cadillac Coupe de Ville
striped shirts
Harlem’s Better Crust Pie Bakery
New York Giants
Duke Ellington
muenster cheese
James Van Der Zee’s photographs
books by John Hope Franklin
carrot cake
Louis Armstrong
English Leather Cologne
cow tongue
Brooks Brothers gray and blue suits
sweet potato pie
cowboy jeans
Billie Holiday
collard greens
Jackie Robinson
black-eyed peas
New York Jets green cap
hog’s head cheese

When I look, thus, at The Speed of our Lives as not just a poetry collection but a collection of stories, I see the range of subjects.  To quote one of the blurbers, Ann Deagon, there are “poems embracing myth, history ancient and modern, happenings worldwide and close to home, characters from many cultures. The first section alone focuses on Ruth and Naomi, Esther, Pocahontas, Anne Frank, Audrey Hepburn, Angela Davis,  Michelle Obama, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and Alondra de la Parra.”  These poems are about something(s) or someone(s).






 

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Rain Taxi interviews Burt Kimmelman

 

ARRANGEMENTS OF LANGUAGE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BURT KIMMELMAN

kimmelman2by Eric Hoffman

Burt Kimmelman teaches literary and cultural studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is the highly acclaimed author of eight collections of poems. Kimmelman’s poetry has received praise from such notables as Robert Creeley (“a rare evocation”), Jerome Rothenberg (“a strict & powerful accounting”), Alfred Kazin (“artful, fastidious, learned”), and Susan Howe (“a singularly locating force”). In addition to his poetry, Kimmelman has also produced an impressive body of critical work, including numerous penetrative essays as well as two full-length books, The Poetics of Authorship in the Later Middle Ages: The Emergence of the Modern Literary Persona (Peter Lang, 1996) and the ground-breaking study The ‘Winter Mind’: William Bronk and American Letters (Fairleigh Dickinson, 1998). It was this latter effort, first encountered over a decade ago during research on my biography of George Oppen, which led me to contact Kimmelman, initiating a conversation on poetry that continues to this day. A small cross-section of that conversation is here provided, albeit in the less casual format of a formal interview, occasioned by the recent publication of Kimmelman’s Gradually the World: New and Selected Poems, 1982-2013 (BlazeVox, $18). This interview was conducted via e-mail primarily from April-May 2014, with a brief follow up in July.


Eric Hoffman: Burt, a fair amount of your work experiments with formal verse, in most cases with syllabics. What is it about working this way that appeals to you? Do you believe that working with syllabics encourages invention?

Burt Kimmelman: I first set eyes on Donald Allen’s watershed anthology, The New American Poetry, in 1965. A decade before the Allen book, Charles Olson had published his ground-shaking essay "Projective Verse" (1950); that essay was given pride of place in the poetics section of Allen’s book. So, for a fledgling poet like myself, the question of writing free verse was not a no-brainer so much as moot (I had written some sonnets, haikus, a couple of concrete poems etc., and did get great pleasure out of set form, but was not at that time in a position to have any particular form work for me in any kind of creative or generative way). Olson's astonishing essay (to say nothing of his amazing poetry, an exemplar I took to heart) explained, so to speak, how to leave free verse behind for something rigorous but not formal in any sense except the sui generis sense—as Robert Creeley had said, “form is nothing more than an extension of content.”

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