Pollak Prizes for Excellence in the Arts
WordsMovement in Writing: Cheryl Pallant
The selectors said: “Author, poet and dancer Cheryl Pallant weaves her three forms together seamlessly in her work, which includes publishing nine books and more than 200 reviews and interviews with dancers, performance artists and others. Her work scintillates through Richmond’s cultural fabric.”
“There’s a lot of wordplay for sure, but from having studied Buddhism for years and from structuralism in college … I’ve developed a facileness with words,” says the New York City native, describing her poetry-
writing style as “agile” and “unpredictable” — like the contact-improvisation dancing that is her other passion. “Words are very pliant, and I tend to make many associative leaps.”
Her study of Buddhism — and some life experiences that required Buddha-like patience — helped define Pallant. Diagnosed as a young girl with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine, she was encouraged by her doctor to cease all physical activity. The supposed cure becalmed her, but stillness and superhuman posture became her new athleticism.
She also developed another sort of muscularity to compensate for what looked like the end of childhood play. Writing became her swingset; words became movement.
While attending college — after an adolescence spent in constant pain caused by her spinal curvature — she finally decided to try movement again, enrolling in a modern dance class. It set her free.
It also made her a polyglot. As she became fluent in dance, she learned to invent new ways of expressing her thoughts on the page. “I would say … they’re both languages,” says Pallant, who teaches at the University of Richmond. “Poetry makes me aware of the power of image and the power of articulation in words. And then in dance, there’s articulation in motion. They both work with breath. They both work with rhythm.”
Kristina Marie Darling’s latest collection, Vow, stunningly enacts the ominous anachronism of the word vow itself—“promises committing one to a prescribed role, calling, or course of action, typically to marriage or a monastic career.” In this airy, white-spaced book of veils and concealment, the wordless invisibilities of the institution of marriage are glimpsed, but only from the margins, in deft footnotes to blank/missing text and haunting fragments—situating the ghostly bride behind the battlements of a moldering mansion, or castle, filled with endlessly locked rooms from which there is no escape barring catastrophes such as fire, or suicidal leaping. Evoking the Gothic domestic spaces of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Vow startles and speaks through the uncanny silences of white space, echoing the erasure and effacement of the wedding gown, the growing silences of the marriage hidden behind the vow, as—powerfully, heartbreakingly—the frozen couple locked inside desperately make “paper wings and little box kites, hoping they'd bear us over the iron gates.”
—Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year
In Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow, a bride maneuvers in a locked house as it goes up in flames. Vow has the brilliance we’ve come to expect from this author, inventing and mastering forms—footnote poems, expansive sequences. Where Bachelard claims a home is memory, Darling’s poetics of space presents the house on fire, inaccessible and full of mystery. The house is a structure one is in yet all the while kept from and intimacy seems to be in the burning embers, the cordoned off spaces. In these poems, emotion feels as though it could physically move away from private life. Bluebeard meets Synechdoche, New York with the eerie sense of the self as a brooding other, the one who watches as everything burns. Our house became a small fortress. Every night we take turns stoking the fires.
—Farrah Field, Author of Rising
How name this strange invention, this kaleidoscopic script, this lyric aggregate? Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow is one part the salvaged fragments of a gothic romance, one part the careful records of a fastidious archivist of the imaginary, and one part meta-documentary. Above all, this book spotlights the nature of vows, how a vow “reveals, harbors, and conceals, and how “we are made and unmade by those we love.” Truly, this book projects this making and unmaking in every aspect, of the wedding gown that is painstakingly tailored only to have its “endless rows of white stitching” undone with a pair of scissors, of the house that is inhospitable, “a corridor filled with locked rooms,” of the vows themselves that the lovers “bury one by one,” and finally, of the book itself, with its innovative approach to form—its fragments, footnotes, appendices, and erasures—that makes Darling’s themes echo through the hollows, haunting and delightful.
—Katy Didden, Author of The Glacier's Wake
In Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow, both text and subtext paint the fraught institution of marriage, particularly the subjectivities of the bride’s several selves. Written in candle, tale, and glass, the book “reveals, harbors, conceals” in an exciting new collection.
—Carmen Gimenez Smith, Author of Goodbye, Flicker
Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twelve books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and (with Carol Guess) X Marks the Dress: A Registry (Gold Wake Press, 2013). Her work has been honored with fellowships from Yaddo, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Kristina is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo, where she holds a Presidential Fellowship.
· Paperback: 62 pages
· Binding: Perfect-Bound
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
· ISBN: 978-1-60964-160-3