benediction for a black swan by Mimi Zollars
Kirkus Star

benediction for a black swan

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A debut collection of poems exploring love, art, and loss.

Some poets focus on the mechanics of poetry, such as intonation and rhythm, and neglect passion. This isn’t the case with Zollars, whose debut collection is a masterful study of how words can be sparingly hewn to create stunning, long-lasting emotional scenes—from a child’s fraught relationship with an alcoholic mother to the cold reality of professional beauty. In “the moderns,” the author writes in a spare style of a dressmaker and his model’s unrequited love for him: “she becomes / a shimmering / goddess / swathed / in silk satin,” and they later adjourn to an “old hotel bar / drinking / sazeracs / elegant / blushing patrons / surreal / conversations // she loves / the effect / of bourbon / of him / of life / resembling / art.” In “center point,” a child remembers her mom’s heavy drinking: “she became a mystery / the children were incapable of solving / distressing...terrible in her destruction.” Zollars’ elegantly limned language and visual use of space create a vivid volume that’s a genuine pleasure to read. She arranges the collection into four discrete parts, prefacing each section with quotes from a variety of sources, including contemporary television shows (with a somewhat self-serving quote from Masters of Sex: “If you want to know more about the nature of femininity, you will have to consult the poets”). These quotes are the weakest part of what’s otherwise a strong, powerful collection, simply because they’re not in the author’s voice and ultimately serve as distractions. However, there’s no question that Zollars is an inspiring, notable talent; she accomplishes more with a poem of 50 words than some other poets accomplish in 50 pages. She achieves this by being attuned to nuance but not repetitive detail; emotion but not sentimentality; and, finally, rhythm but not noise. Each poem offers a perfectly observed moment as seen through a slightly distorted lens, featuring personality, heartbreak, and the desire to bridge distances that can’t be named.

A set by a brilliant new poet, featuring exquisite emotional nuance and an impressive mastery of craft.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63152-950-4
Page count: 128pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2015


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