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by Carolyn Grace

Pub Date: May 2nd, 2023
ISBN: 9781945049354
Publisher: Shadelandhouse Modern Press

Grace’s debut poetry collection ponders language and meaning.

“I wrote this book because I am interested in how meaning is created,” writes the author in her preface to this new collection. For this emerging poet, meaning is found in the mechanics of human language—specifically word choice and placement—and in the quest to make sense of oneself and the world. The collection is divided into nine sections bearing intriguing, unusual titles, including “Esemplastic,” “Limn,” and “Invariance.” Each section contains a series of poems without titles, numbered in roman numerals. Grace employs a range of poetic forms, from common meter to haiku and pantoums. Some poems contemplate how our relationships with others impact our own identity: “If you are the center of my map—where / am I?” Others consider the act of writing itself: “These marks are a compendium of miscellany / a narrative—translucent, pre-existing and replete.” At the close of some sections, the author includes a “Lyric Glossary” in which she poetically reexamines and reframes specific terms she has used. Grace’s poetry is laden with sensuous imagery: “Ignominious fruit of that garden / my carmine lips, your garnet desire.” The most compelling aspect of this ingenious body of verse is the poet’s determination to excavate ever deeper layers of meaning; Grace returns to the word carmine in her Lyric Glossary, recalling, “a rich red to crimson pigment…I bought a dress that made my skin look like cream and my hair look like amber. / I bought it so that your hands on my waist would look like intent—and they did.” The poet moves beyond cold definitions, adding not only personal significance to the term but pinning it to one intimate moment. She poignantly captures how meaning shifts with time: “a vivid red…I still own that dress. It is packed in a box with other things that don’t fit me anymore.” The poet also demonstrates notable technical prowess, as when priming a villanelle to deliver the powerfully philosophical, doubled-barreled refrain: “What arterial conspiracy was this, aromatic and dusty, rife with pulse and power? / The victor builds the world around himself, calls the edges nothing, the center a flower.” This is the work of an alarming talent.

An intricate gem of a poetic debut.