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Review by Jodie Daber

BlazeVOX [books]
ISBN: 978-1-60964-116-0
136 pages
$16.00 from BlazeVOX [books]
Petrarchan by Kristina Marie Darling is a strange ghost of a book.  The first six sections tell the story of a love affair in footnotes to an invisible text.  At the bottom of each page we find fragments that provide clues to what has been elided; references, definitions, translations, quotes, expansions and explanations, all haunted by the white space above:

2. She described their exchange as a "staircase burning in a locked house."  When asked, she would list each of the possessions she had lost in the fire. (19)

This house recurs throughout the notes, a series of "rooms opening inside a single room."  Inside the rooms there are cabinets, jewellery boxes, locked armoires, and within them, 'an assortment of disconcerting love tokens' (27), or nothing at all, 'only compartment after compartment' (19).  Secrets within secrets, nestled like Russian dolls, meanings glimpsed from the corner of an eye, the deferral of understanding underscored with the repeated use of the phrase 'only then…'

10. The smallest disturbance seemed to devastate the ocean's pristine shore.  Only then did they determine that the city had in fact been built around an inland sea. (15)

3. "Only then did I understand why the key to his armoire remained hidden from view.  Within every box, I found only compartment after
compartment." (19)

3. "Only then did I understand the meaning of 'reverence.' Our house began to murmur with tiny silver bells," (25)

The latter sections of the book, Appendix A: Correspondence and Appendix B: Misc. Fragments, are formed from snippets of Petrarch's sonnets, loose beads restrung on white space to create new patterns of longing and desire. 

is a beautiful creation, imbued with the eeriness of found footage, deeply rewarding whether you are familiar with Petrarch or not.  It is a book you want to read over and over, each note deepening the mystery, hours of wondering packed into each sentence.  I will dream about this 'house by the sea' for a long time to come. 


Jodie Daber
blogs at http://muckyfat.tumblr.com/