Review of Kristina Marie Darling’s Petrachan
Darling’s latest, Petrarchan, is an unwritten work. Its poems, non-existent, allude to themselves through interwoven footnotes, which frame the empty pages so richly, it feels as though the verse were pared down to the most incidental, stirring self-realizations. Through them, Darling explores the land-scape of her psyche – a “house by the sea.” Its archetypal fiber weaves the numerous and obscure corridors of her soul out of domestic imagery. A necklace beneath a stairwell glimmers as the steps catch fire.
To Darling, we are fragmented by the secret rooms of the heart and the life-blood they quietly gestate, which, when discovered, upsets the balance of our identity – the underpinning question: “What is a relationship with the self?” This is strikingly revisited in her erasures of Petrarch’s sonnets, whose meanings are altered – in some cases, empowered – by Darling’s cuts. The sonnets explored become volatile – a few words, isolated, expose infinite possibilities for meaning. Petrarchan reconfigures identity as a reaction to what we do not know. Self-awareness becomes an anxiety and acceptance of chance arrangement – meaning emerges as a chaotic intersection of experiences whose halls we feel through blindly, but trust.
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Check out Petrarcan here
Kristina Marie Darling's Brushes With
We were no longer in love. The sky, too, was beginning to show its wear. A silk lining could be seen through every slit in the dark green fabric. 1
I started to wonder where we went wrong. You were holding a map of the constellations.2 Each of the minor stars had been assigned to a square on a little grid. The map seemed scientific so I approached you.3
You kept looking down at your compass. The needle spinning beneath a little screw. Maybe this is where we went wrong.
Above us, the sky is still wearing its green dress. The most delicate strings holding it all in place.
1. The photographs portray this dress as one of the most violent manifestations of the heroine’s femininity.
2. At the edge of the map, she could discern a cluster of minor stars. Their incessant movement seemed difficult to comprehend, let alone to document.
3. “I had wanted to understand the cause of this fearful disturbance. Within my compass the needle kept spinning and spinning.”
*I apologize that my footnotes’ numbers do not appear like they should, that is the limitation of trying to transfer her work to a blog post. I will say that I love how she creates her text and ties footnotes to them, along with pages of just footnotes. In this piece the overwhelming darkness and the avoidance of eye contact depicts a couple avoiding each other even while present in each other’s lives. The comparison of the sky to dark green fabric with silk lining is romantic and delicate, so delicate that strings hold it in place and threaten to smother the couple should the fabric break free. Whether that was the meaning behind Darling’s piece I do not know, I only know that it is how I picture it for myself. Darling is a master at creating a visually stimulating piece weighted with more emotion than you initially read into.
Released this past February by BlazeVOX Books, Kristina Marie Darling’s Petrarchan continues the poet’s study in footnotes and fragments. Don’t expect to find neatly arranged stanzas here; rather, Darling prefers to tell her love story in broken-apart thoughts, small but vivid details and ample white space.
As its title suggests and the author’s notes confirm, Petrarchanis a work in dialogue with the famous Italian writer of sonnets. The chapter titles are taken from Petrarch’s bibliography, and the appendices are composed using only found text from Petrarch’s sonnets. Darling also mentions Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho as an inspiration. In a May 2013 interview with Word Riot, Darling talks about the role these source materials played in writing Petrarchan:
I feel like all poetry arises from the writer’s life as a reader. I think of poetry as a conversation, in which the poet appropriates, revises, and recasts what has been said before her. But with Petrarchan, there was more of a “thesis” than with my previous projects. I love Petrarch’s work, but it’s so problematic for me as a female reader. His writing, perhaps more than any other one person’s work, has been associated with the male gaze, the silenced beloved, and various master narratives about what love should or ought to be. Petrarchan is my attempt to reconcile Petrarch’s sonnets with my enduring interest in feminist reading practices.
But while Petrarchan does indeed wrestle with the problematic romantic ideal put forth by Petrarch, the reader doesn’t need to be well versed in Petrarchan sonnets and surrounding literary theory to connect with this writing. Petrarchan doesn’t even require that its reader be well versed in Darling’s own oeuvre (the prolific poet has released several books in the last few years), although it helps — Darling remains as much in dialogue with her past work as with the work of other writers.
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A terrific new review of Brushes with, by Kristina Marie Darling was just published in HTML Giant.
25 Points: Brushes With,
by Kristina Marie Darling
BlazeVOX [books], 2013
50 pages / $16.00 buy from BlazeVOX or Amazon
Be sure to check out the whole review here.Read more »
25 Points: Petrarchan
“Within every box, I found only compartment after compartment.”
1. Petrarchan is Kristina Marie Darling’s 8th book, published by the ever controversial Blaze Vox Books. (Yikes. Remember that whole thing? I still have love for the Vox, though.)
2. Much in the way she “took liberties with H. D.’s letters” in THE BODY IS A LITTLE GILDED CAGE, Darling uses ekphrasis, careful appropriation, erasure, and the work of Petrarch and Sappho (the latter, via Anne Carson’s translations) to achieve her grand illusion.
3. Kristina Marie Darling’s voice as a writer is unmistakable and unshaken regardless of mode or form. Of this, I am thoroughly convinced.
4. In fact, one thing that has repeatedly struck me about Kristina is how much larger in stature her writing voice is than its author. To be clear, this is not to reduce her as a person, but to exemplify her work as a force. Often, in an effort to amplify one’s voice over the din of modern media, the artist must become a personality first in order to gain potential interest in the work. Unfortunately, it becomes easy for the latter to suffer in the shadow of the former in the race. Darling reminds me that there is still a strong argument to be made as an artist for placing one’s ambitions squarely on the body of one’s art.
5. This is to say that I have no idea whose parties she attends, under which influences, et cetera, but I damn sure know when it’s her voice there on the page.
6. The reader will find in Petrarchan Darling’s familiar signature use of spare narrative and spectral imagery driving a carefully plotted course of marginalia and footnotes. To be fair, it is doubtful that anyone who is unconvinced or maybe even still undecided about her work in general will be swayed by Petrarchan. However, those of us who are believers or even simply interested parties will take comfort in knowing that what is gold still shines.
7. Tangentially, I have been thinking a lot about appropriation and erasure lately. As a writer who uses both at times almost criminally, I think a lot about what constitutes successful employment. After all, as some will invariably argue, can’t anyone do it? The short answer, of course, is yes. But to make a piece of erasure or other appropriation both successful and original despite its sources, I believe what the author chooses not to use, and why, becomes equal in importance to what isused, and how. The author must rely on the source text to some degree, but the artistic voice of the finished piece should stand on its own. Darling’s work—and Petrarchan is no exception—is as fine an example as any to underline these values.