Tuesday, December 20, 2011



Compendium by Kristina Marie Darling
(COW HEAVY BOOKS, New York / Washington / Detroit, 2011)

Dream Snippets Controlled into Academic Verse

My favorite line in Kristina Marie Darling’s Compendium poetry collection is, “In every necklace a cluster of nervous stars”, which infuses me with a potential volatility.

As a reader who oddly adores poetry that is gruesomely horrific and/or emotionally intense, Compendium’s overall writing style is enticing in a very different sort of way. I wish the nervous stars wracked my nerves more, but there attempt to enter my head takes a different approach, has a different style, offers a different sort of fairy tale infusion. I know Cinderella has dangerous parts; like hacked off feet and bloody hearts and other dark lavishness, but Darling’s collection seems to be more attuned to carefully controlled snippets of fairy tale attire.

Part of me is potentially intrigued; part of me longs for the nervous stars to grow into more nervous streaks and writhe forth further. Many of Compendium’s nervous stars seem to remain strangely clustered inside jewelry boxes and carefully implanted into shoes and other pieces of female attire.

The constraint is purposeful, carefully handled and well written, but I sometimes crave more frothing outbursts instead of careful implementation. Granted, the careful implementation is elaborate in its own controlled way, but maybe my writhing and frothing desires are too over the top to fully enjoy such elaborate control. It’s quite interesting how this Compendium’s content makes me think about how I do not desire to be constrained into carefully chosen rules or roles or attire. I crave more ghostly/ghastly/gasping/dripping/dipping away from constraint, to the point of surprising and maybe even scaring, shocking or gagging.

I am a fan of deeply emotionally intense artistic compilations (the kind that are multi-faceted, overly complex and over the top by some people’s standards) and overall, the compilation of Compendium strikes me as more interestingly scholarly as opposed to deeply emotional. Much of this collection’s poetic arrangement makes me think of small dream snippets controlled into mini tales. Dream snippets can become extremely oddly appealing/appalling—and the snippets in this collection are interesting, but I wish some of the sequences were less academically controlled and more strangely haunted or poltergeist infused.

Dark green and red velvet floats through the rooms. The Compendium is brimming with instruments, some of them wonderfully odd and unusual. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) these odd and unusual parameters, the overall collection seems adhered to “ceremony’s intricate structure”, making me think of old-school wedding ceremonies and fairy tale desires. There are many assorted descriptions of clothing and shoes, including slippers—which repeatedly brings Cinderella to my mind—which makes me think of females competing against other female’s based upon male desirability, attractiveness, and footwear.

Maybe the main female character within this Compendium is playing with us by playing with herself, trying to create or alleviate her own head’s sheet music. That approach interests me, but I would relate more to this creature if her sheet music released more inundated and complex adult dreams, fantasies, and nightmares. Instead it releases more fairy tale dream music and jewelry boxes which remind me of little girls—and hearts inside jewelry boxes strike me as a fairy tale borderline cliché. Instead of heart-shaped boxes and shoes, I crave the feel of more blood-drenched knee highs and thigh highs going all the way up to the eyes and distorted brain.

Some of the Compendium’s pieces indulged me with tidbits of content that struck me as borderline kinky; even though still filled with slippers, they also included black ribbons and other dark offerings, such as “The darkest lace bristling at her wrists”. I wish it would bristle to the point of bursting farther above and beyond that body part, into an edgier realm. When “Out of my jewelry box the most delicate insect emerged”, I wish that delicate insect would merge with potential poison and bite harder and more dangerously.

Perhaps I like it a little too hard and horrific to suit most people’s tastes. In any case, the Compendium is an interesting little exploration of female fairy tale etiquette interconnected with dreams and glossaries and footnotes—and it works quite well in that regard. Still though, part of my mind reads a line like, “Let each room grow dim. Note the confluence of evening and a thousand unopened black umbrellas” and then screams, ‘No! Un-dim yourself! Open wider!’

I am interested in reading more of Kristina Marie Darling’s poetry compilations and finding out how other works of hers might open up differently.


Juliet Cook’s poetry has appeared within Action Yes, Barn Owl Review, Columbia Poetry Review, Diagram, Diode and many more print and online entities. She is the editor/publisher of Blood Pudding Press (print) and Thirteen Myna Birds (online). Juliet’s first full-length poetry book, ‘Horrific Confection’ was published by BlazeVOX. She also has oodles of published poetry chapbooks, most recently including FONDANT PIG ANGST (Slash Pine Press), Tongue Like a Stinger (Wheelhouse), POST-STROKE (Blood Pudding Press for Dusie Kollektiv 5) and Thirteen Designer Vaginas (Hyacinth Girl Press). She is currently submitting her second full-length poetry manuscript, “Deadly Doll Head Dissection”. To find out more, please feel free to visit www.JulietCook.weebly.com.

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