Silence and Asymmetry
‘Fortress’ by Kristina Marie Darling
Sundress Publications, 2014
Poetry Review by Agnes Marton (Hungary/ Luxembourg)
Published in The Ofi Press issue 42
Kristina Marie Darling’s collection Fortress starts (and ends) with erasures of Elaine Scarry’s The Body in Pain. She makes human suffering disappear from the quote. Not much is left, only “invisible geography”,”unsharability”, “the body’s surface”, “boundaries”. The structure of balance is happily disturbed too: the main text is absent throughout the book, we get only footnotes. The print page is presented as an interface with the poems as the readers’ personal mind yard to be filled in; the easy-to-digest narrative is missing, and so are the recognizable characters. The feminized landscape of what we know well from canonical, Keats-like Romantic poetry: shards of jewelry, dead flowers, and not-anymore-colourful gardens represent nostalgia and pain, they serve as scenery for the exploration of the ephemeral, they give apropos for a meditation on loss: the loss of nature (as we knew it), the loss of a marriage, the loss of a life, the loss of the possibility of traditional storytelling. What remains is the blankness of the page, and some fragments of the used-to-be to put together while adding our very best. This way the reader is involved in the experimentation, in making the white space alive and personal, in the different types of language.
Much is happening in the seemingly blank space: mundane objects (often empty ones like bottles, or lost, futile ones) are being gifted with sparking emotional and intellectual meaning. These keepsakes are all given to the reader to reconstruct a life, some importance and feeling, a marriage to own and cherish. Internal and external world can be saved by externalizing memory, self can be built into the world, into the language to be shared. Balance can be regained, distances controlled, even enjoyed and taken advantage of (leading to a weird kind of closeness after all).
Kristina Marie Darling wants her audience to collaborate with her, to create new versions of her poems, to invest experiences and imagination. The poems read by various interpreters can be very different, the narrative can be joyously expanded. I find this idea and this way of thinking inventive and refreshing, something constructive. Fortress is a process and means of discovery and self-discovery, it is worth taking the risks.