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Vow by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed in The The Poetry


Review: “Vow” by Kristina Marie Darling & “The Blue Rental” by Barbara Mor

by KARL WOLFF on AUGUST 18, 2014







-“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.  But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

 Timothy 11 -12, The Bible, King James Version

-“Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque revenit.”

(“You can drive nature out with a pitchfork, she will nevertheless come back”)”

 -Horace (65-8 BC), Epistles I.X.24

Kristina Marie Darling created a domestic drama that unfolds in white space, an emptiness surrounded by a commentary in the footnotes.  It is a text without text, a Beckett-ian “texts for nothing” literalized.  Barbara Mor created a panorama, a historico-politico-paleontological rant against collective and individual injustices.  It is written with chthonic excess, with Whitman-esque long poetic lines set amidst the painted landscapes of the American Southwest.  Both Mor and Darling represent visionary feminist poetics; one spare and skeletal; the other a surrealist logorrhea.

Vow is about a marriage.  Rendered in short lines and esoteric marginalia, the bride faces the slow reduction and negation of her identity.  Unlike Mor’s work, The Blue Rental, Kristina Marie Darling’s work isn’t a frontal assault on violent male idiocy and its institutional tentacles (the state, the military, the corporation, etc.).  Darling works through small meditations on relics and debris. 

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Vow by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed in NEW PAGES



Poetry by Kristina Marie Darling

BlazeVOX [books], October 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1-60964-160-3

Paperback: 56pp; $16.00

Review by H. V. Cramond

Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow is simultaneously familiar and strange. The title itself evokes Anne Waldman’s Vow to Poetry, but one look at the small, spare book tells you that this is a different thing. It is, like Waldman’s book, a text about text, but not just in content:

4. Desiccate
            †1. To render something dull, lifeless or dry
            ††2. To preserve
5. The film follows its heroine as she photographs the scorched altar, and later catalogues these images within the sprawling university archives.

Darling uses appendices, footnotes, and other forms usually reserved for academic writing to create a book as an object of desire, which as Anne Carson explains inEros: The Bittersweet, is desirable because of, not in spite of, its elusiveness. One footnote reads: “I respect most the men who’ve refused me: the bridegroom, with his corridor of locked rooms; you, the light descending on a burned house; Saint Jude of the Lost Causes, despite the roses I leave at his scorched altar.”

Vow witnesses a wedding and the marriage that follows: before us is a white dress, a dark-haired man, an altar, a locked door. Each successive image builds on the last while resisting any readerly impulse to ground it in allusion. Is the pale-dressed woman wandering a hallway of locked doors Bluebeard’s wife? Is this Bertha Mason, dreaming of fire, or is it Jane Eyre? “I dream another me exists in the burning house, reading aloud from what I have written. Broken glass. A sad film. The awkward silence.”

But, dear Reader, Darling does not want you getting lost in a good story and forgetting, briefly, that you have a book in your hands. Vow constantly reminds the reader of his or her role as watcher, as translator, as participant in a “version of this story.” But the reader, finding the mirror of literature shattered, still finds herself “unmade”:

empty frame. He stares at the glittering pieces, trying to
distinguish between self and other.

By the time Vow reaches appendix C, the house’s “flawless architecture” burning around us, words are overtaken with white space: the silence after a fight, the chill after a flame has gone out. In this space, union takes place and analysis fails. Unable to separate one perspective from another, the reader is left to feel the vibration that occurs when music ceases.

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Vow by Kristina Marie Darling reviewed in The Rumpus!




VowIn The Bell Jar, Plath’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood, eschews expectations of marriage for writing, growing more and more disconnected from the other young women interns with her at the New York City fashion magazine. So Kristina Marie Darling’s poetry and prose unveils the stereotypes and double-standards embedded in our culture that make marriage imprisoning for many women. Given her history of experimentation with form, it is not surprising that her two most recent books, Vow and Music for another life., act in concert with each other and with the other literary works resisting these prescribed roles in works that incorporate both prose and poetry.

Vow is a book length poem that re-constructs (though incompletely) the remnants of a story, a treatise of vows, and the end of a marriage. Though easiest classified as poetry, it is the kind of writing that resists form as much as the voice in the book resists the constraints of marriage. In the first and main section of the book, “Vow,” we find what seems to be a story with narrative gestures seen in the prose blocks of text that begin with narrative syntax such as “I had always imagined the day” and “But before long, we’ll enter the house” However, as the first line asks “What does a white dress not resemble?” we may ask how does this not resemble story or poem. After all, the majority of this poem/story is filled with a sort of poetic negative space where footnotes and “marginalia” annotate empty pages. With this text, Darling tells and retells a story, recycling images of shattered glass, white dresses, a house without an exit, a house that can only be escaped through burning. Are these the ashes of that house, that marriage?

As it deconstructs the institution of marriage, so Vow also documents the construct, in the aftermath, of the poem itself. There are three appendices to the book and, in between them, “Endnotes to a History of Brides.” These sections act as commentary, supplement, and evidence for the first section. “Marginalia” contains more footnotes (this time numbered) to more blank pages. However, along with “Endnotes to a History of Brides,” rather than continuing the story, the notes seem to give background commentary, much as one might find in the commentary version of a movie, such as “This silver dagger was most often used for opening letters” or a direction for the reenactment of the story not told in the first part: “The film follows its heroine as she photographs the scorched altar….” This commentary adds context and a more distanced perspective to the story that “Vow” attempts to tell. Both are explanations for something that cannot be explained: why a marriage ends.


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Vow by Kristina Marie Darling Now Available!

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Kristina Marie Darling’s latest collection, Vow, stunningly enacts the ominous anachronism of the word vow itself—“promises committing one to a prescribed role, calling, or course of action, typically to marriage or a monastic career.” In this airy, white-spaced book of veils and concealment, the wordless invisibilities of the institution of marriage are glimpsed, but only from the margins, in deft footnotes to blank/missing text and haunting fragments—situating the ghostly bride behind the battlements of a moldering mansion, or castle, filled with endlessly locked rooms from which there is no escape barring catastrophes such as fire, or suicidal leaping. Evoking the Gothic domestic spaces of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Vow startles and speaks through the uncanny silences of white space, echoing the erasure and effacement of the wedding gown, the growing silences of the marriage hidden behind the vow, as—powerfully, heartbreakingly—the frozen couple locked inside desperately make “paper wings and little box kites, hoping they'd bear us over the iron gates.” 

—Lee Ann Roripaugh, Author of On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year


In Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow, a bride maneuvers in a locked house as it goes up in flames. Vow has the brilliance we’ve come to expect from this author, inventing and mastering forms—footnote poems, expansive sequences. Where Bachelard claims a home is memory, Darling’s poetics of space presents the house on fire, inaccessible and full of mystery. The house is a structure one is in yet all the while kept from and intimacy seems to be in the burning embers, the cordoned off spaces. In these poems, emotion feels as though it could physically move away from private life. Bluebeard meets Synechdoche, New York with the eerie sense of the self as a brooding other, the one who watches as everything burns. Our house became a small fortress. Every night we take turns stoking the fires.

—Farrah Field, Author of Rising


How name this strange invention, this kaleidoscopic script, this lyric aggregate? Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow is one part the salvaged fragments of a gothic romance, one part the careful records of a fastidious archivist of the imaginary, and one part meta-documentary. Above all, this book spotlights the nature of vows, how a vow “reveals, harbors, and conceals, and how “we are made and unmade by those we love.” Truly, this book projects this making and unmaking in every aspect, of the wedding gown that is painstakingly tailored only to have its “endless rows of white stitching” undone with a pair of scissors, of the house that is inhospitable, “a corridor filled with locked rooms,” of the vows themselves that the lovers “bury one by one,” and finally, of the book itself, with its innovative approach to form—its fragments, footnotes, appendices, and erasures—that makes Darling’s themes echo through the hollows, haunting and delightful.

—Katy Didden, Author of The Glacier's Wake


In Kristina Marie Darling’s Vow, both text and subtext paint the fraught institution of marriage, particularly the subjectivities of the bride’s several selves. Written in candle, tale, and glass, the book “reveals, harbors, conceals” in an exciting new collection.

—Carmen Gimenez Smith, Author of Goodbye, Flicker


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of twelve books, which include Melancholia (An Essay) (Ravenna Press, 2012), Petrarchan (BlazeVOX Books, 2013), and (with Carol Guess) X Marks the Dress: A Registry (Gold Wake Press, 2013). Her work has been honored with fellowships from Yaddo, the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as grants from the Kittredge Fund and the Elizabeth George Foundation. Kristina is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Poetics at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo, where she holds a Presidential Fellowship.


Book Information:

· Paperback: 62 pages

· Binding: Perfect-Bound

· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books] 

· ISBN: 978-1-60964-160-3



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