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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher reviewed at Ploughshares

 

ghost landscape mainGhost/Landscape
Kristina Marie Darling & John Gallaher
Blaxevox, February 2016
102 pp; $16

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In the collaborative poetry collection Ghost/Landscape (Blazevox, 2016) by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher there is no beginning or end. The first poem is “Chapter Two.” So begins traversing a time loop of poems where the reader can really “begin” anywhere. What is a beginning and what is an ending? Is moving forward and looking behind you the same thing? A circle never ends. “Chapter Two,” begins like a bed time story:

“We must have known there was no going back…that morning, before our windows had been broken, you asked about the lock on the door. I realized it was only a matter of time before the alarm sounded, which always seemed out of place in the dead of winter.”  

The reader is a happy prisoner in this manikin-like frieze: feelings are suppressed into the pages of Goethe novel. Timelines, like broken glasses, need to be glued back together. If the reader needs to assemble a puzzle to establish a linear map, one should look to the corners first. In Ghost/Landscape, the edges are gray and decrepit. The backbone seethes.

Darling and Gallaher use color to drip the poems in surprising apathy. In this illusion to the underworld, “Thermopolis as a concept” they paint this canvas:

“The scenery is used to being blamed for such things, red,
beige, and more red with some yellow. And blue and black
and white.

I’m busy looking at everything I’m looking at. It rises and falls as I sit and stand. It’s shadowy or bright or neither, really. Navys and grays. I expect great things from it.

A little jump and it’s leaping. There on the bluffs overlooking
the town I see it leap as I’m looking at it leaping.

If, late in summer, it’s late summer, then it’s late in summer.
That weird feeling of being cheated when the forecast of bad
things happening doesn’t come to pass…”

The outer world is constantly in flux, unforgiving, and ambivalent towards the humans who gaze upon it no matter if the grass is green or covered in snow. There is also an apt correlation: if the outer surroundings are corrected than inner relationships may heal. In the poem “Landscaping,”

“We’re looking out the kitchen window, and we have this opportunity to go back and undo our errors. But where do we start? We mowed poorly around the trees. We didn’t marry well or have pleasant children…”

The landscape reflects a sadness.  There are repeated domestic objects noted throughout the collection: drinking glasses, the phone, a calendar, a television, torn photographs.  The objects reflect how the speakers convey the passing of time: selling them, losing them, realizing something was stolen. The objects may change but our connection to them remain the same. We sell certain objects just to want them again. In another poem in the middle of the collection, also titled “Chapter Two,” 

“Next thing you know, the whole house is a yard sale. Your bed is three feet under other things. Here, there’s still some room between it and where the bureau was, a kind of depression you can lie on…”

The succinct wordplay here illustrates a heavy woe: one can lay down on a bed and make a depression with one’s figure as well as succumb to an emotional albatross.



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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher reviewed!

 

Fjords Review, Ghost/ Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher

POETRY
GHOST/ LANDSCAPE
BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING AND JOHN GALLAHER

BlazeVOX Books (Feb. 14, 2016)
102 pages
ISBN 978-1609642402

 

June 24, 2016

 

Two people talking about the weather has never been so insightful or enlightening. Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s astounding Ghost / Landscape’s show that talking about the weather doesn’t have to be awkward filler. The book moves like poetry while still functioning as prose, and integrates a narrative, suspense, and an unrequited love story into one wonderful whole.

Leaping around in time, the book is divided into chapters, beginning in the midst of things and ending at the beginning with chapter one. Even more intriguing are the chapters named after an emotion or event. Among these are “The Chapter On Regret,” “The Chapter On Museums,” and “The Chapter On Houseguests.” Surprisingly specific, these chapters name their subjects; call them out even, as it becomes clear that the book is obsessed with the weight of names and titles. The speaker asks, “What is a conversation but an attempt to make sense of objects, to dig them out from beneath their seemingly endless names?” and continues on, “How could you call that darkened room nostalgia, as though naming something isn’t a kind of violence?”

In a blunt tone, the speaker builds the world, word-by-word, bringing it into being. Both by naming objects and then dispelling their title, Ghost / Landscape depicts an image, a setting, a landscape and then destroys it all together, creating something new out of its dust. In this narrative world, shattered glass and phantom music are the background of many scenes, a murder does or doesn’t happen, a ghost can quickly become, or perhaps always was, a birthday cake, and a parking lot is renamed “something springy, because we don’t really like parking lots all that much.”

Darling and Gallaher prove that something can become anything. Words are used as a grounding device in reality and then given a rebirth as something else entirely. The poets’ voices blend together magically, where topics are seamlessly shuffled around mid-phrase and the two voices disappear under one consistent tone. Teaching readers how to read the book, the speaker explains, “I’ve always had a fondness for the absurd. Like playing two radio stations at once.” This duality between themes and authors creates an interesting tension throughout, where every thought, feeling, and chapter feels both supported by its surroundings and disputed by what precedes or follows. 

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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher reviewed!

 

GHOST/LANDSCAPE BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING
AND JOHN GALLAHER

BLAZEVOX, 2016; 102 PP
REVIEWED BY ANNE CHAMPION

On the back cover of Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s Ghost/Landscape, Allison Benis White says, “One measure of the potency of literature is that its strangeness forces the reader to change her world to incorporate it, or to leave her world and join the one the writer has created.” This perfectly encapsulates the experience of entering Darling and Gallaher’s prose poems.

I admit that the form of prose poetry often makes me expect narrative, and it’s the denial of that expectation that makes Ghost/Landscape a compelling, reader-centric experience. The collection begins on “Chapter Two,” trumping expectations by placing the reader on the sideline of a battle whose beginning or cause you can’t place, making the ensuing conflict as dizzying as a maze. The details render a domestic setting, but with apocalyptic imagery: “Now our train leaving the platform, another dead pigeon near the tracks” and “Not one painting on the walls, and not a single photograph in any of those boxes.” The absence of photos or art signal that there’s no past in tact in these poems, and the dead bird along the tracks gestures towards a decomposing future weighted down by terror.


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Ghost | Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher Now Available!

 When Henry David Thoreau wrote “The stars are the apexes to what triangles,” I’m not so sure he had poetry collaborations in mind. And yet, when Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher say—though which one says it, or both, or none, I don’t know—“Soon we wonder why we’re both thinking about astronomy, and at exactly the same time,” I begin to see by a sidereal light that collaboration at its best may be no more than two poets far apart gazing up at the same star’s height, and what fills the triangle is the poem, otherwise known as art. These poems of “shared consciousness” make of individual life a jointly lived thing, so much so, that “we” hides in every “I” and “you.” These collaborative poems gather us into their intimate community, and once within these pages, we glimpse what poetry might long have tried to teach us: how it is we go about learning to think, learning to see, learning to feel together.

—Dan Beachy-Quick


One measure of the potency of literature is that its strangeness forces the reader to change her world to incorporate it, or to leave her world and join the one the writer has created. In this case, Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher's extraordinary domestic noir, GHOST / LANDSCAPE, creates both responses in me: transformation and relocation. Part of this book's wonderful strangeness, of course, arises from the nature of the collaboration between Darling and Gallaher, as their voices transform and relocate, blend and electrify into a single speaker (I, you, we) that longs for conversation: "I tried to phone you, but the snow went on for miles." This ache for articulation, for communion, is further complicated by the middle-class American ennui, dark humor, and matter-of-fact violence of the book. I finished GHOST / LANDSCAPE with the certainty that I have at least two voices, and one murder, inside me. This book will stay with me for a very long time.

—Allison Benis White


Too often coauthored poetry books feel more like exercises than true, vital collections. Not so with Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s GHOST / LANDSCAPE. These startling poems push against the boundaries of daily living through sustained attention and quiet articulation. “I’m busy looking at everything I’m looking at,” Darling and Gallaher assert in one poem; in another they say of the suburban landscape in which many of these poems are set, “We can lift it up from the edges and look underneath. It’s like looking into a mirror.” Often the worlds of these poems feel dreamlike, populated at the perimeter with the ghosts of past and present as we eavesdrop on the only living voices merging, ultimately, into one human voice. And though the poems can be playful and self-reflexive—as one would expect from these two terrific postmodern poets—ultimately this is an intimate and surprisingly unified book of big ideas: “We all think we’re having different lives, when really there’s only one life and we’re sharing it.”

—Wayne Miller


GHOST / LANDSCAPE reads like an intimate chat, except not the kind people have over tea. Maybe it's whiskey causing these emotional flare-ups ("They warned me about you"), these bouts of nostalgia ("You wake wondering where the antique chickens are"), these lamentations about lost love (count the number of missed phone calls throughout), these discomfiting confessions ("...I had always thought unhappiness would be easy"). The chemistry between these poets is electric; it lights up the page.

—Diana Spechler


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of over twenty collections of poetry and hybrid prose, including Scorched Altar: Selected Poems & Stories 2007-2014. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Ora Lerman Trust, and the Rockefeller Archive Center. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University.

John Gallaher is the author of five books of poetry, Gentlemen in Turbans, Ladies in Cauls (2001), The Little Book of Guesses (2007), winner of the Levis Poetry Prize, Map of the Folded World (2009), Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (with G.C. Waldrep, 2011), and In a Landscape (2014), as well as two chapbooks, and two edited collections, The Monkey and the Wrench (with Mary Biddinger) and Time Is a Toy: the Selected Poems of Michael Benedikt (with Laura Boss). His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Poetry, Boston Review, Chicago Review, and elsewhere. He lives in rural Missouri where he teaches and co-edits The Laurel Review.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 102 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-240-2

$16

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Ghost : Landscape by Kristina Marie Darling & John Gallaher Book Preview

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