Poetry by Kristina Marie Darling
BlazeVOX [books], October 2013
Paperback: 56pp; $16.00
Review by H. V. Cramond
Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow is simultaneously familiar and strange. The title itself evokes Anne Waldman’s Vow to Poetry, but one look at the small, spare book tells you that this is a different thing. It is, like Waldman’s book, a text about text, but not just in content:
†1. To render something dull, lifeless or dry
††2. To preserve
5. The film follows its heroine as she photographs the scorched altar, and later catalogues these images within the sprawling university archives.
Darling uses appendices, footnotes, and other forms usually reserved for academic writing to create a book as an object of desire, which as Anne Carson explains inEros: The Bittersweet, is desirable because of, not in spite of, its elusiveness. One footnote reads: “I respect most the men who’ve refused me: the bridegroom, with his corridor of locked rooms; you, the light descending on a burned house; Saint Jude of the Lost Causes, despite the roses I leave at his scorched altar.”
Vow witnesses a wedding and the marriage that follows: before us is a white dress, a dark-haired man, an altar, a locked door. Each successive image builds on the last while resisting any readerly impulse to ground it in allusion. Is the pale-dressed woman wandering a hallway of locked doors Bluebeard’s wife? Is this Bertha Mason, dreaming of fire, or is it Jane Eyre? “I dream another me exists in the burning house, reading aloud from what I have written. Broken glass. A sad film. The awkward silence.”
But, dear Reader, Darling does not want you getting lost in a good story and forgetting, briefly, that you have a book in your hands. Vow constantly reminds the reader of his or her role as watcher, as translator, as participant in a “version of this story.” But the reader, finding the mirror of literature shattered, still finds herself “unmade”:
empty frame. He stares at the glittering pieces, trying to
distinguish between self and other.
By the time Vow reaches appendix C, the house’s “flawless architecture” burning around us, words are overtaken with white space: the silence after a fight, the chill after a flame has gone out. In this space, union takes place and analysis fails. Unable to separate one perspective from another, the reader is left to feel the vibration that occurs when music ceases.
Friday, April 25, 2014
12 or 20 (second series) questions with Morani Kornberg-Weiss
1 - How did your first book or chapbook change your life? How does your most recent work compare to your previous? How does it feel different?
My debut poetry book, Dear Darwish, is the outcome of a slow and complex process that lead to a shift in my historical, cultural, and political outlooks. In other words, the “change” occurred and the book was conceived as a result.
I have spent my life moving back and forth between Israel and the U.S. When I started my Ph.D. in English/Poetics at SUNY Buffalo in 2009, I was exposed to a wide range of poetry that radically altered my writing practices. The book showcases the change in my writing “style.” I experiment with different forms, such as epistolary, prose-poetry, borrowed text, and longer, more sequential poems, since several poems naturally lend themselves to these forms. As Robert Creeley stated: "form is never more than an extension of content.” My poetry now feels “different” because I allow the poems to emerge in whatever form they need to be/come.
2 - How did you come to poetry first, as opposed to, say, fiction or non-fiction?
When I look back at my childhood, it seems like I have always been writing poetry: jotting down words on paper, assembling lines along the margins of notebooks, and even hanging up a favorite poem in my bedroom in elementary school (“Warning” by Jenny Joseph). (Okay, I love the color purple too!) I started writing regularly during high school when I moved back to Israel and had to relearn Hebrew. I wrote poems in English while trying to immerse myself in an old-new language and culture. I don’t think I was ever aware that these were poems per se. Rather, I felt compelled to write about my life and my surroundings, and poetry became the outlet for recording those experiences.
3 - How long does it take to start any particular writing project? Does your writing initially come quickly, or is it a slow process? Do first drafts appear looking close to their final shape, or does your work come out of copious notes?
A project begins with an idea. Sometimes, I start working on a project right away. Other times it takes months and years for the ideas to evolve and for me to even become aware that there’s a “project” that can emerge out of them. Writing is a craft that seems to have a pace of its own (which can also be a source of great frustration when the projects are slow-going). In the end, every poem is treated as a separate entity: some require heavy revision (or are left out entirely) and others only require subtle changes or none at all.
4 - Where does a poem usually begin for you? Are you an author of short pieces that end up combining into a larger project, or are you working on a "book" from the very beginning?
I think it’s a little bit of both. I am often preoccupied with a few major issues and end up writing poems about them. The poems, in retrospect, can then be compartmentalized into book projects revolving around one major theme. But all of my poems begin with a thought, one so overbearing that I am (unknowingly) made aware of my own cognitive thought processes and begin to write – a word, a line, a stanza – that might potentially evolve into a poem. I’ve been practicing the art of being mindful when this occurs.
5 - Are public readings part of or counter to your creative process? Are you the sort of writer who enjoys doing readings?
Poetry, for me, is first and foremost a communal endeavor (even when it occurs in isolation between writer-reader-book). I love attending as well as participating in readings. I have met many great friends and writers through these shared spaces. I am open to the possibility of letting other people’s words and languages seep into my own creative thought processes and therefore always have my notebook and pen in hand. Reading my work allows me to share my poems through my voice and my body in ways that do not exist on the page alone. The poems become alive (or I give them a particular “life” depending on my tone and mood at the moment). Plus, it’s nice to get feedback from friends and/or strangers, especially when I have worked on a project for so long.
6 - Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
I am currently completing my doctorate, which focuses on the lyric tradition, transnationalism, and Israeli and Palestinian relations. Several poems located in Dear Darwish were written as a result of my research. I consider my creative and scholarly endeavors as part of one larger project in which I examine questions of memory, nationalism, and trauma; I aim at understanding how particular memories and cultural practices are shaped and later perpetuated. Poetry becomes an alternative space where I can challenge the values that I “naturally” inherited. I’m not sure if there are specific questions that I ask; rather, the entire book is a collection of several possible answers.
7 – What do you see the current role of the writer being in larger culture? Does s/he even have one? What do you think the role of the writer should be?
For me, personally, poetry is a form of activism. I think language is charged, multi-layered, and political; the act of writing, therefore, is a dynamic process where writer and world interact in meaningful ways. Poets, as Shelley puts it, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” I would like to think we are acknowledged and that part of the beauty and magic of poetry (and writing in general) is that we never know what seeds we plant in our readers’ minds and when those seeds will emerge as new modes of thinking and experiencing the world. I think the writer should just write, share, read, write more, and share again. Although we do not always have the privilege of defining our own roles as writers, we can, at least, define the type of poems we wish to create and disseminate.
In The Bell Jar, Plath’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood, eschews expectations of marriage for writing, growing more and more disconnected from the other young women interns with her at the New York City fashion magazine. So Kristina Marie Darling’s poetry and prose unveils the stereotypes and double-standards embedded in our culture that make marriage imprisoning for many women. Given her history of experimentation with form, it is not surprising that her two most recent books, Vow and Music for another life., act in concert with each other and with the other literary works resisting these prescribed roles in works that incorporate both prose and poetry.
Vow is a book length poem that re-constructs (though incompletely) the remnants of a story, a treatise of vows, and the end of a marriage. Though easiest classified as poetry, it is the kind of writing that resists form as much as the voice in the book resists the constraints of marriage. In the first and main section of the book, “Vow,” we find what seems to be a story with narrative gestures seen in the prose blocks of text that begin with narrative syntax such as “I had always imagined the day” and “But before long, we’ll enter the house” However, as the first line asks “What does a white dress not resemble?” we may ask how does this not resemble story or poem. After all, the majority of this poem/story is filled with a sort of poetic negative space where footnotes and “marginalia” annotate empty pages. With this text, Darling tells and retells a story, recycling images of shattered glass, white dresses, a house without an exit, a house that can only be escaped through burning. Are these the ashes of that house, that marriage?
As it deconstructs the institution of marriage, so Vow also documents the construct, in the aftermath, of the poem itself. There are three appendices to the book and, in between them, “Endnotes to a History of Brides.” These sections act as commentary, supplement, and evidence for the first section. “Marginalia” contains more footnotes (this time numbered) to more blank pages. However, along with “Endnotes to a History of Brides,” rather than continuing the story, the notes seem to give background commentary, much as one might find in the commentary version of a movie, such as “This silver dagger was most often used for opening letters” or a direction for the reenactment of the story not told in the first part: “The film follows its heroine as she photographs the scorched altar….” This commentary adds context and a more distanced perspective to the story that “Vow” attempts to tell. Both are explanations for something that cannot be explained: why a marriage ends.
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Tim Myers the author of Dear Beast Loveliness has had some wonderful media responses to all of his writings. Below are interviews, reviews, and a short story for you to look over. Hurray and do stop by his book page to have a look at his poetry. Hurray!
Tim Myers on East o’ the sun and West o’ the Moon
LA Review of Books:
Tim Myers interviewed with DASHKA SLATER on the writing life:
And here's a short story b y Tim in EAP: The Magazine:
The Fisherman and the Draug
Here's an interview on Tim’s children's books: