Each new book is an invitation, clean with promise; some sadly emerge as soured visions, others evoke an aesthetic compromise. And then there are embryonic classics, offerings fit for golden idols and devouring minds. Such is the case with 'The Body is a Little Guilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments', by Kristina Marie Darling (Gold Wake Press, 2012). This a sumptuous delight, based upon and dedicated to author and Modernist pioneer, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle). According to Darling, "When writing 'The Body is a Little Guilded Cage', H.D.'s life became a mythos in itself, onto which I projected my own autobiographical material. It was in this way that H.D.'s work inspired the temporal structure of the book, its movement in and out of time".
Darling's work can only be likened to a jewel cask, the richness of each stone making the fingers jump and hover, reluctant to settle on just one. As the title states, the content, though ripe and lush is a series of fragments, the connection not always visible, as if held by an unseen thread. Think of a Russian doll, always complete, yet never ending.
There is always a feeling of lingering groups at the periphery of the narrative; Sigmund Freud, Anais Nin, Gertude Stein, James Joyce, placed in and out of time, gathered from the ether of varying years and continents and hovering as nuance, creating invisibly the required ambience, like the wavering curve of a crystal ball's image. Don't hope for clarity laid like fine crystal on crisp white linen. Instead, be certain that questions may seep at the edges, a provocative kaleidoscope of tactile vision, eluding one's grasp before another rises. In Darling's own words, "For both H.D. and myself, the present moment is nothing but a lace tablecloth spread over the past, whose vibrant colours bleed through the delicate fabric."
But don't expect a smooth ride. This is more like a trip down the Champs-Elysees in January; a beauty which bites. This is a period piece, a dichotomy of seen and unseen and heavy with repetition, which draws one to specific inconspicuous items, intimidating, suggestive, erotic;
'He mentions only the opulent red lace on her garter,
forgetting its cluster of violet ribbons. Their intricate
knots unravelling as she ascended the tiny staircase.'
Darling tells us; "I've tried to capture the enduring sense of awe that pervades H.D.'s poems. The poems I've written as tribute express a sense of wonder when faced with love, language and the intricacies of everyday life."
The strength of Darling's prose lies in her ability to breath life, not into what is described, but rather what is implied. Her gift to the reader is a series of heart-stoppingly beautiful vignettes, which build in passion and then at its height, crushingly leave us to the void. These are gems on which to trod as stepping stones, until they fall away and leave us staggering for another, any other.....until we turn a page.
Adele C. Geraghty
is author of 'Skywriting in the Minor Key: Women, Words, Wings', a poetry collection and co-publisher of BTS Books. She is the recipient of the 'US National Women's History Award for Women's Poetry and Essay', a member of the New York collective 'Arts Soiree' and a performance poet with 'Patched Fools Ballads' of Newcastle. She may be reached at BTSBooks2007@aol.com