The poems in Artesian Well wander with a dark elegance through a grainy rural terrain, where the burden of memory and a collective grief are character...moreThe poems in Artesian Well wander with a dark elegance through a grainy rural terrain, where the burden of memory and a collective grief are characteristics of Midwestern legacy. This is a place where girls shoot guns and ride horses bareback, where recipes are passed down for generations, where "Sometimes in winter / they throw the dead away." Ellsworth reveals with subtlety the ways our memories can play tricks on us and the illusion of a comforting nostalgia. This is a book about family and the bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, about forgiveness and aging, about how to learn that "the only way home / is through each other."(less)
This book comes in 6 parts, each developing a sort of biography of this "Citizen J-" - a revolutionary woman who is all at once strange, mysterious, a...moreThis book comes in 6 parts, each developing a sort of biography of this "Citizen J-" - a revolutionary woman who is all at once strange, mysterious, and relatable. I was drawn to the language play in this book, and while it has a bit of a sinister tone, it's also quite playful and make me chuckle a few times. Sometimes the poems feel fairly violent (the setting moves in and out of wartime/revolution - but it's a war that requires garter belts AND gas masks) and each poem is told from the point of view of a collective "we," which makes it sound like these are oral stories being recorded and passed on, and that may account for some of the strangeness. Either way, there are some majorly poignant lines that left me breathless with their unique insights, like little bombs exploding from one page to the next. Some lines I loved: "any second now, one or both of them was sure to start holding too close to the bone," "sometimes he threatens to cancel the whole j out of her," "j wants to put something in her wife like it's new years." There are a lot of interesting lines and images that surprised me. Interesting read. It's a difficult book, but definitely worth the work. (less)
In the poem "Wendy Darling Has Bad Dreams," Kindred writes: "There's a man in this bed I might love / if he could believe / where I've been." This cha...moreIn the poem "Wendy Darling Has Bad Dreams," Kindred writes: "There's a man in this bed I might love / if he could believe / where I've been." This chapbook relies on lines like this one, deep cuts that rewrite the story of those characters we think we know so well. This chapbook is a revisiting of that Peter Pan tale, though mostly told through the views of the women, giving voice to Wendy, Tinker Bell, and Tiger Lily. The poems rewrite the legend, offering new insight into each character's identity and personal narrative, with an original and entertaining voice. You will read about a fairy autopsy, the neverbirds, and you will see the mothers of the original legend cast off their invisibility and become real. In "Story Hour," Kindred writes: "Let/ your bodies lean / over mine / onto the failures of the page." There are no failures in these pages, except to reveal the holes in the original narrative. (less)
I am a big fan of this book by Mezynski - her writing is extremely unique because of how she plays with sentence structure and ideas. Somehow she mana...moreI am a big fan of this book by Mezynski - her writing is extremely unique because of how she plays with sentence structure and ideas. Somehow she manages to "fit" big ideas into very small sentences, and even then, she knows how to use verbs in new ways, and even leaves words out to make you re-think how we use the English language. Each piece in this collection is a nod to both femininity and masculinity and definitely a book for those who like a lot of play and a bit of weirdness.(less)
This book is innovative and challenging, but also accessible. Do not be scared away just because these don't "look" like your traditional poems, becau...moreThis book is innovative and challenging, but also accessible. Do not be scared away just because these don't "look" like your traditional poems, because the poems in this book are not ambiguous or abstract, and because it tells an entire narrative of one speaker's search for understanding of the self and of femininity and love. It is a book that looks deeply inward, yet speaks for many.
The book is organized into 23 sections, rather than individual poems - it's a serial poem. Each poem begins with "because" or "and" - letting the reader know that the book itself is a response to some an event, though the motivating incident is not named. But this is what intrigues me the most - that the reader gets to determine the cause and effect on her own terms. At times, the sections consist of only two lines - or even of only brackets - while other times, the poem will list with such force and momentum that by the end of that one single section, you feel the breathlessness of the speaker, the inner turmoil, the struggle to understand "why."
The subject matter might be a bit abstract, and even challenging. The reader does not know the actual event these poems are responding to. The book is the "because" - but we don't know what caused it. We can guess, though, with lines like "[because I make excuses for what is soiled]" and "[because I was mistaken for a miracle]". Each line IS its own poem, can stand alone as a reason, another "because" - and we also get additions to these reasons. We are also always grounded, while making leaps one place to the next, leaps the writer has trusted us to make with her. There are corsets, tattooed snakes, mothers, dust and dirt and allusions to dirtiness and shame, paper-mache wings, missing bones. We are always grounded either in the body, the earth, or something feminine. While at times it may appear that these objects are unrelated, because of the repetition of similar images of the body or land, it becomes clear that these objects in and of themselves are not what matter, but rather the whole world they end up creating. The book attempts to explain away what cannot be explained. In the end, we are left with a blank page, simple brackets, because ultimately words cannot explain why at all. My favorite lines: [because I make excuses for what is soiled] [and wash each seed separately before eating it] [and write secret messages on my breasts]
What is the reader's role in this book? To fill in the blanks. To understand what the motivating incident is without being told. To allow the speaker to take us on a ride without being predictable, without telling us what to feel or what to think, but instead allowing us to experience the exasperation, the need, the want for understanding. This is a book that is purely an exploration of the self and the self's role in relationships (particularly romantic or intimate relationships), and by the end it's clear that language is simply not enough.
This book is ultimately about the body, and particularly the body as a feminine space. I think it's also about our connection to earth and to one another. How our bodies relate or don't. How our bodies lie to us. How people lie to us because of our bodies. It's a deep, fascinating read, one that is on my desk at all times because every single line - or even lack of line - is pure inspiration.(less)