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Kristina Marie Darling interviewed at TCJWW

 

Interview: Kristina Marie Darling

November 25, 2015

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Andrea Dickens

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Night Songs (2010), Compendium (2011), and The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments (2011). She has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Ragdale Foundation, as well as grants from the Vermont Studio Center and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Her poems appear in Third CoastBarn Owl ReviewRHINOCider Press ReviewGargoyle, and many other journals. (Bio adapted from Barn Owl Review). 

 

TCJWW: How did you conceive of Failure Lyric as a book-length project? Was it before you began writing these poems, or after you had a group of poems? How do projects for books usually find you (or you find them)?

 

Darling: That’s a great question. Failure Lyric actually began with a writing prompt from the wonderful poet Allison Titus. She challenged me to map my heartbreak across its many locations in time and space, to chart the crazy orbits that grief set me on.  It wasn’t long before I started writing poems about a relationship and various cities that it took me to:  Burlington, St. Louis, Iowa City, and the now infamous Dallas/Fort Worth airport. The work began as disparate fragments and bits of what would later become poems, so it was a joy to discover the larger narrative arc as I wrote. This is usually how my book projects unfold. While I work in long poems and extended sequences, I always feel as though I’m discovering the project, or the larger concept behind the work, as I write. 

 

TCJWW: The poems in this book both show quite a range of form and also a strong consistency of voice. I’m curious how your poems came to take their current shapes and find their voice.

 

Darling: The book does encompass a range of forms, including lyric fragments, prose poems, and prose sequences. The more fragmented pieces are actually erasures, which came into being when I took a black marker to my four-year correspondence with a male poet, who out of respect for his work, will remain unnamed. Erasing the various letters, inscriptions, and messages was initially intended to help me move past my grief, but it did much more. It gave rise to the poems that you’ll find in the middle sections of Failure Lyric, in which I tried to weave together memory and imagination, grief and hope, to create meaning from what seemed like a heap of shattered glass and dead lilies. 




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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Lithub

 

Failure Lyric

What Certainty In Reaping

11/09/15

In the throes of my divorce a couple years ago, I heard Elizabeth Bishop in an old radio interview pointing out that we humans get divorced all the time. She was answering a question about the damage divorce might inflict on children. My son was 5 at the time and I pulled my car over, trembling, to more safely hear Bishop forecast his fate from her grave. She went on to explain that we are divorced from things constantly—we are divorced from loved ones who die, we are divorced from places we lived, we are divorced from stuffed animals. I thought of the time my son lost his favorite blankey by the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Bishop was saying we are fooling ourselves if we think the dynamics of divorce are somehow discreet from so many other aspects of life that children and the rest of us all have to get used to. Loss is a constant. I extrapolated: what distinguishes divorce may well be all the good that came before it, and the sheer possibility that goodness could go on forever. As opposed to the life cycle that will inevitably cease, love—placed under glass by the act of marriage—might just never end.

Until it does.

Kristina Marie Darling’s Failure Lyric is a certain post-mortem in that regard. A stirring meditation on her own divorce, Darling’s work turns a wintered eye to that dimension of the good that came before. If it’s possible for poetics to be clinical, Darling has done it. And that’s only part of what makes this work remarkable. Far from sentimental, Failure Lyric is artful in its meticulously limited scope. This work does not chart a rise and fall; it doesn’t depict the good times. It does not rage or blame. The only nod to “the way we were” centralizes around conspicuous disaccumulations (remembered references to “his last wife,” her ex’s inattention at ripe moments).

Instead, Darling populates a menagerie of haunting creatures and notions around her varied tracings of the past. A common theme is loss of voice, stopped-up throats. Both bride and groom stutter, cough, clear their throats; “when I saw you again, the trees swallowed their tongues,” “I tried to eat but the (wedding) cake lodged in the hollow space of my throat,” “I tried to kiss you but my mouth was frozen shut.”

Through this image-rich, serial misrecollection, Darling’s work affixes a death mask onto her marriage. Her text offers over and over—with more fervor as we approach the conclusion—“let me tell you a story about marriage.” And indeed she does. By remembering and re-remembering her dress, the cake, waiting at the altar—as a macabre parade towards disaster—these items (broken glass, fire and ice, dead birds that “said nothing“) come together to retrospectively call for the union’s severance, precisely at the site of its high ritual.

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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Tweetspeak

In Failure Lyric, Kristina Marie Darling uses the prose poem form to address grief in relatively short selections. Her use of imagery is strong—how she describes various cities, sad movies as metaphors, and remembering places of meetings highlighting the relationships’ decline and end.

Here, in “Saint Wife,” she describes the moment when the second partner recognizes that the relationship is over.

Saint Wife

At first, you didn’t quite understand. How I carried all that grief from city to city, until it turned into an enormous white halo around my head.

And the stars. The way they followed my sadness, rising and falling like an ocean. Before long, even the cities where we lived began to circle around my melancholy, each one a thread spinning through the eye of a needle.

One morning, you woke and noticed that the world around you moved differently. The freeway no longer led to the subway station. And the flower stand wasn’t where you remembered it.

You cried, but neither one of us could change it back.

Failure LyricDarling has published more than 20 collections of poetry and hybrid prose, including The Sun & The Moon and The Arctic Circle. She’s been recognized with a Yaddo residency, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, and received numerous artist-in-residence fellowships from numerous institutions. Honors include the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets and nominations for several other awards. She received degrees in English Literature and American Culture Studies from Washington University, and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Missouri. She’s is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo.

One doesn’t necessarily expect the prose poem form to add beauty to the subject of grief, but that’s what Failure Lyric accomplishes.

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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed at Word Riot

 

Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling

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. 

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A review of Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling has been published at Sabotage Reviews

 Hurray! A new review of Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling has been published at Sabotage Reviews:

http://sabotagereviews.com/2015/10/09/failure-lyric-by-kristina-marie-darling/


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Failure Lyric by Kristina Marie Darling

– Reviewed by Angelina D’Roza –

The first night I was iced out of the city […] At my feet, shattered glass. The finch’s broken neck. I just sat there, counting the dirty feathers, its cracked bones. The dead bird said nothing

(“Boston”)

In Failure Lyric, an affecting image is crystallized through Kristina Marie Darling’s direct language, all downright sharp edges. The broken bird, and the speaker, who can’t look away, could easily symbolise the death of a marriage, say something about numb inertia, isolation, the strange ways through which the end of a relationship alters your focus, throws perspective. But that would be a bit too easy. Failure Lyric works because it’s cumulative: images recur, stories are told, retold, told again, remembered and misremembered. Reality is destablised: what we thought we knew about what’s gone before is rewritten in the face of the present, forcing us to experience the loss of the past we thought we had. The dead bird image, though beautiful, would be almost clumsy if it weren’t so well woven into a whole that’s unravelling.

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