This post contributed by Anne Champion.
Kristina Marie Darling
BlazeVOX Books, 2013
Kristina Marie Darling’s accolades already include eleven books of poetry, and her newest collection, Petrarchan, keeps up with this furious creative momentum. In Darling’s past work, she has carved out a form of poetry all her own, built from fragments, definitions, and footnotes; in Petrarchan, she stays true to this legacy while also foraying into some newer territory—cryptic erasure poems and bracketed verse pilfered from Petrarch’s sonnets.
Darling’s intelligent eye often draws from the history of artistic geniuses or theorists, and this collection pays homage not only to Petrarch but to Anne Carson’s translation of Sappho. She uses writers as inspirational clay: in molding their thoughts, she titillates the reader’s imagination, forcing them to contemplate an invisible narrative hovering above the footnotes. Additionally, Darling often revisits familiar tropes: readers see images refracted through glimmering shards of shattered mirrors, broken jewelry, and lost possessions. In these shards, readers find glimpses of warped but recognizable versions of themselves. For instance:
2. She described their exchange as “a staircase burning in a locked house.” When he asked, she would list each of the possessions she had lost in the fire.
Lines like these echo the Victorian Era or a haunting Bronte novel; women yearn amidst feelings of entrapment, and men give trinkets. When these trinkets break, so do the ladies hearts. Here’s an example:
Ever since, I had longed for a memento, some tangible record of his affection. But the change left the faint marks on my delicate skin.
The jewelry scorches, because mementoes trigger memory, which also burns with the heat of betrayal and abandonment. Additionally, similar to Jane Eyre’s notorious madwoman in the attic, the female speakers in Petrarchan are cornered in a dizzying maze—their home:
2. She described the house as a series of ‘rooms opening inside a single room.’ Upon entering the foyer, she found that the door had locked behind her.
Darling further complicates her lyrical forms through her use of definitions that exhibit an abrasive friction and stunning irony. For example:
Hermetic. 1. Completely sealed against the escape or entry of air. 2. Impervious to outside influence. 3. Having to do with occult sciences, especially alchemy.
In the above quote, the hermetic is simultaneously trapped, rebellious, and capable of witchcraft. Solitude is isolation, but it is also power.
Petrarchan is a dazzling whirlwind of broken fragments and a historically rich text, blooming with a garden of metaphors. Darling astounds in her ability to take fragments and transform them into stunning lyricism. You read, and you enter her worlds: it’s a sort of hypnosis.
Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013). Her poems have appeared in Pank Magazine, The Comstock Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Cider Press Review, The Aurorean, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s Prize, a Pushcart Prize nominee, a St. Botolph Emerging Writer’s Grant nominee, and a Squaw Valley Community of Writers Poetry Workshop participant. She holds degrees in Behavioral Psychology and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. She currently teaches writing and literature at Emerson College, Wheelock College, and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston, MA. She also serves as a poetry reader for Ploughshares.