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PETRARCHAN by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed Petrarchan over at The Rumpus





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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