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Kristina Marie Darling interviewed at Heavy Feather Review

 

The Tension between Order and Chaos: An Interview with Kristina Marie Darling

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Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twenty books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and Scorched Altar: Selected Poems and Stories 2007-2014 (BlazeVOX Books, 2014). Her awards include fellowships from Yaddo, the Ucross Foundation, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. She was recently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome. Her most recent book, The Sun & the Moon, was just released by BlazeVOX Books.

I’m curious about the formal constraints that organize this book. Reading the linked prose poetry sections which are filled with recurring imagery and language, I was reminded of the musicality and looping patterns of sestinas. Can you please talk about your use of form in this book?

That’s a great question, and I love the comparison you draw between the prose poems and sestinas. I value the sense of unity that these inherited forms provide, especially within a book-length manuscript. Within my own practice, though, I often have a difficult time rendering my ideas, imagery, and language compatible with forms like the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina. I enjoy inventing my own formal constraints, since this seems to give me the best of both worlds: the unity and sense of order associated with writing in form, and the freedom to discover the poem or sequence as I write it. To make impulsive and intuitive choices, rather than striving for loyalty to the formal constraint.

When writing The Sun & the Moon, I was unsure at first what form the book would take, since the sequence began in fragments. I was drawn to the little prose boxes you see in the book because they worked in tension with the chaos and violence in the content of the manuscript. As I drafted the book, I wanted to see how long I could sustain the tension between order and chaos, between the uniform appearance of the poems and the way that the images and motifs slowly changed shape. I hope that the relationship between form and content will spark the reader’s curiosity, and add to the possibilities for interpretation.

The sections that I felt most drawn to were Appendix B and C—though they were made more meaningful by the first section. Appendix B seemed to act as a kind of document, as if a diary destroyed in a fire by soot, water damage, erasures. Appendix C functioned for me as if some kind of relationship field notes—can you again, please speak of how these structures and forms operate in your larger project? How did you arrive at using these forms and structures?

I appreciate your careful reading of the book’s Appendix B and C. Appendix B actually consists of erasures of the earlier section, but I love your comparison to a diary that has been destroyed by soot or fire damage. I arrived at these fragmented literary forms after seeing just how visually uniform the first section appeared. So in this respect, your comparison between the invented constraints of the prose poems and a sestina sequence is especially perceptive.

Read the Whole Interview Here 

Her most recent book, The Sun & the Moon, was just released by BlazeVOX Books.

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Dear Darwish by Morani Kornberg-Weiss reviewed at NDR

 

Dear DarwishAs its epistolary title suggests, Morani Kornberg-Weiss’s Dear Darwish is a book about bridging divides through writing. As an Israeli-American writer addressing Mahmoud Darwish, a renowned Palestinian poet, Kornberg-Weiss seeks to negotiate an “end” to the longstanding conflict between the two authors’ peoples, even if it means raising a white flag of surrender, as the book’s illustrated cover depicts (93). From the very first pages of Dear Darwish, the speaker adopts a respectfully subservient tone to address the late literary figure, formally asking “permission” to use his words and proposing humbly that they “work together” to forge a common “IsraelPalestine” narrative, in which the “share[d]…blood” on their hands teaches both sides finally to live together rather than die divided (18-19).

Despite the speaker’s explicit peace-making intentions and admissions of mutual guilt, she takes great pains to extricate herself from the conflict’s underlying motivations, even positioning herself as a helpless victim through the analogies of a “hostage,” a puppet, and a “kill[ed]…messenger” (21-23). Kornberg-Weiss clarifies that her poems’ proactive diplomacy should not be taken as an avowal of personal responsibility; on the contrary, both she and Darwish inherited their bloody hands at birth, entering the world already “torture”-bound prisoners whose only sin was simply “learn[ing] to live / with the darkness” (26).

Read the whole review here

Preview Dear Darwish 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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Photos on flickr