Review by Carlo Matos
Kristina Marie Darling’s Failure Lyric in many ways continues the work she started way back in Night Songs in both form and content. This is not to say one cannot enjoy it in isolation, only that her work openly invites the reader to consider how the current project represents a continued refinement of or variation on her favorite themes. For example, like many of its predecessors, Failure Lyric centers on a failed or failing relationship, contains erasures, and is told from the perspective of a woman whose beloved has vanished (or is vanishing) from her life. There is also the terrible silence, the deathly, museum-like landscape, and the overmastering desire to preserve and catalogue. For those who know Darling’s work, you will recognize the frozen garden of Requited, the glass curio cases of Melancholia, and the doomed epithalamia of X Marks the Dress(co-written with Carol Guess)—among many other similarities.
In many of her earlier books, the female protagonist tended to be trapped in the home, buried under a pile of lover’s tokens, old love letters, and painful memories. However, in Requited, we get the first instantiation, I think, of a heroine on the move, of a lover on the run, chasing after or being chased by the ghosts of failed love. It is this heroine that concerns us here: “At first, you didn’t quite understand. How I carried all that grief from city to city.” But what really sets this book apart from its predecessors is the strange prescient failure of the relationship; that is, we see the marriage begin and end at the exact same time.