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Friday, August 19, 2011

Five from Dancing Girl Press (Part Two)

{Part two of a look at five chapbooks I bought this summer from Dancing Girl Press: Dancing Girl Press, edited by Kristy Bowen was founded in 2004 and publishes several handmade chapbooks a year by female poets in limited editions of 100 or so.}

The History of a Lake Never Drowns by Julia Cohen (2008) with cover art by Alexandra Brokalakis offers nine poems brimming with stark images and a curious pairing of the natural world wound round the human body. The initial poem begins: "If I had two cell walls it could be easy/ I so snuggly fit in your back/ Hiking away from the saintly glass vacuum" Is the speaker in this case amoebic? Amorphous? References to the body and its structure tumble around language referring to the natural world with the final synopsis: "I think I was a body-shaped hole in the clouds" Cohen continues to collect images and throw them up against references to flesh, fists, feet in dazzling combinations that create a cacophony of aural delights: "Capillary action, it is nothing like cold rain" The body is excised from nature, lined up against it and called out in its disparity; the "I"of these poems is tinged as well with a sense of longing: "I'll widow, I'll always form a body to mourn" Line after line, Cohen cuts to the quick with surprising comparisons and passionate reflections boldly declared by the speaker of these poems.

Check out Julia Cohen's other works and enjoy her "poetic" banter and intriguing photographs at her blog: http://onthemessiersideofneat.blogspot.com/


The Calculus of Owls by Sarah J. Gardner (2009) with a cover by Elisabeth Pellathy is the second chapbook DGP has published by this author. How to Study Birds was released in 2006. I remember reading it two summers ago, but my impression from this chapbook was much stronger. The cover is probably, in my opinion, one of the best covers in my DGP collection. Here, Sarah Gardner presents 22 poems in three sections. These poems are largely narrative, clear in their descriptions and structurally coherent on the page. Gardner's gift lies in her word choice, stunning pairings and striking collisions occur as she dredges the word pool to populate her poems with phrases like: "rutted hinges of leaves" or "purse-heads of grasses." Visually, she piles up images to inhabit nebulous emotions as in the poem "An Explication of Loneliness" where we are told "Because a train is long sentence with a single verb." This litany reveals to us in layers and from different angles the facets of loneliness ending with the conclusion that, "none knows as the heart knows/ the difference between nectar and venom" Birds haunt this text, the wise owl, the symbolic feather that wraps the speaker and even the crow who has lost its voice; often the subject is tempered by the natural world as the speaker grasps to wrestle with complex emotions by returning to contemplate nature's quiet response: "What/ is most needed you have often seen: a field/ a single tree at center, a question/ that even leafless does not shrink from answer"


Check out all the chapbooks from Dancing Girl Press here: http://www.dancinggirlpress.com/

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