title: Darling Beastlettes [purchase here]
author: Gina Abelkop
source: I purchased a copy at her reading at the Mustard Beak.
“Poetry is ordinary language raised to the Nth power. Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words.”
~Paul Engle, New York Times ( 17 Feb. 1957)
Have you ever read something and come across a phrase or a line that made you stop and think “DAMN I *wish* I had written that!”? That happened more than a few times as I read Darling Beastlettes over the weekend. Gina’s stunning collection made the 2 1/2 hour Greyhound bus ride to Hartford, CT surprisingly enjoyable (despite the dude sitting next to me who took “Greyhound bus” to mean “moving booze-free karaoke bar” and rapped aloud to himself for all 2 1/2 hours…with choreography…).
Poet Gina Abelkop, founder and editor of feminist press Birds of Lace, is supremely gifted at creating haunting, otherworldly images and turning out gorgeous verse. At the heart of her poems are women, real and imagined, recognizable and authentic. Adroitly observant, the themes Gina tackles aren’t new (gender roles, sexuality, femininity, love, lust, etc) but they feel that way due to the welcome freshness and honesty of her perspective.
My favorite stanza from “Heather in Curls”:
“Ask for a hideaway bedroom, one with a secret fireplace, a stack
of fabric that leads in well-tread steps to another country, one with mountains.
You can cry over them as much as you’d like, they’ll be there forever.” (p. 39)
A snippet from “Greta” (my FAVORITE piece in the collection):
opened her breast like a gushing fruit
and fed reveries of love.
Nightingale wanted some
she could crawl inside.
Others looked upon her snidely,
ripped at her raw chest,
closed their own in return.
All this gore and nothing.” (p. 61)
GAH! Just…wow. Brutally observant, her delivery is at times as fanciful as it is raw…which isn’t easy to pull off without coming across a tad manic (which she does not). As I said in a previous post, I don’t know much about what experts say makes a poem “good,” BUT I know what speaks to me, and Gina does.
Rubric rating: 8. I am absolutely keeping an eye out for her future work 🙂
You can read poems by Gina Abelkop at: La Fovea, Two Serious Ladies, and Everyday Genius, among other places (check out her blog for a far more comprehensive list). And if you happen to be in LA, check her out at The Empty Globe at Pieter Projects w/ Kate Durbin @ 8pm, or at the Saturday Night Special Reading Series @ Nick’s Lounge, both on May 25th.