BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING AND JOHN GALLAHER
BlazeVOX Books (Feb. 14, 2016)
June 24, 2016
Two people talking about the weather has never been so insightful or enlightening. Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s astounding Ghost / Landscape’s show that talking about the weather doesn’t have to be awkward filler. The book moves like poetry while still functioning as prose, and integrates a narrative, suspense, and an unrequited love story into one wonderful whole.
Leaping around in time, the book is divided into chapters, beginning in the midst of things and ending at the beginning with chapter one. Even more intriguing are the chapters named after an emotion or event. Among these are “The Chapter On Regret,” “The Chapter On Museums,” and “The Chapter On Houseguests.” Surprisingly specific, these chapters name their subjects; call them out even, as it becomes clear that the book is obsessed with the weight of names and titles. The speaker asks, “What is a conversation but an attempt to make sense of objects, to dig them out from beneath their seemingly endless names?” and continues on, “How could you call that darkened room nostalgia, as though naming something isn’t a kind of violence?”
In a blunt tone, the speaker builds the world, word-by-word, bringing it into being. Both by naming objects and then dispelling their title, Ghost / Landscape depicts an image, a setting, a landscape and then destroys it all together, creating something new out of its dust. In this narrative world, shattered glass and phantom music are the background of many scenes, a murder does or doesn’t happen, a ghost can quickly become, or perhaps always was, a birthday cake, and a parking lot is renamed “something springy, because we don’t really like parking lots all that much.”
Darling and Gallaher prove that something can become anything. Words are used as a grounding device in reality and then given a rebirth as something else entirely. The poets’ voices blend together magically, where topics are seamlessly shuffled around mid-phrase and the two voices disappear under one consistent tone. Teaching readers how to read the book, the speaker explains, “I’ve always had a fondness for the absurd. Like playing two radio stations at once.” This duality between themes and authors creates an interesting tension throughout, where every thought, feeling, and chapter feels both supported by its surroundings and disputed by what precedes or follows.
We are pleased to announce that Laura Madeline Wiseman’s book Drink was awarded a 2016 National bronze medal in poetry by The Independent Publisher Book Awards. We are very happy for her accomplishment!
The Independent Publisher Book Awards (the “IPPYs”) are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles published each year. Since their inaugural contest in 1996, over 6,000 books have received IPPY Awards. This is a tribute to the independent spirit and expertise that comes from publishers of all sizes and budgets.
Laura Madeline Wiseman is the author of more than a dozen books and chapbooks and the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her books are Wake (Aldrich Press, 2015), American Galactic (Martian Lit Books, 2014), Some Fatal Effects of Curiosity and Disobedience (Lavender Ink, 2014), Queen of the Platform (Anaphora Literary Press, 2013), and Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012). Her newest collaborative book is The Hunger of the Cheeky Sisters: Ten Tales (Les Femmes Folles Books, 2015) with artist Lauren Rinaldi. She holds a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has received an Academy of American Poets Award, a Mari Sandoz/Prairie Schooner Award, and the Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Mid-American Review, Arts & Letters, and Feminist Studies. Currently, she teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Nebraska. www.lauramadelinewiseman.com
GHOST/LANDSCAPE BY KRISTINA MARIE DARLING
AND JOHN GALLAHER
BLAZEVOX, 2016; 102 PP
REVIEWED BY ANNE CHAMPION
On the back cover of Kristina Marie Darling and John Gallaher’s Ghost/Landscape, Allison Benis White says, “One measure of the potency of literature is that its strangeness forces the reader to change her world to incorporate it, or to leave her world and join the one the writer has created.” This perfectly encapsulates the experience of entering Darling and Gallaher’s prose poems.
I admit that the form of prose poetry often makes me expect narrative, and it’s the denial of that expectation that makes Ghost/Landscape a compelling, reader-centric experience. The collection begins on “Chapter Two,” trumping expectations by placing the reader on the sideline of a battle whose beginning or cause you can’t place, making the ensuing conflict as dizzying as a maze. The details render a domestic setting, but with apocalyptic imagery: “Now our train leaving the platform, another dead pigeon near the tracks” and “Not one painting on the walls, and not a single photograph in any of those boxes.” The absence of photos or art signal that there’s no past in tact in these poems, and the dead bird along the tracks gestures towards a decomposing future weighted down by terror.