Monday, July 13, 2009

David McLean Reviews: "Paper Cuts"

Paper Cuts

Constance Stadler

Calliope Nerve Press

As always, in this collection Constance Stadler achieves a balance between modern content and a sampled traditional form, whereby the poetry runs through the lexis of the traditional but with neologisms and archaisms rubbing shoulders and thighs in a glorious mêlée that achieves often the status of poetry of the purest water.

Her targets are everything from Plato (completely unjustly, the poem could be about somebody else) to Jesus and the Society of same, completely spot on target. Modern life is dissected and diagnosed here, found lacking, the anxious and painful half-lives people live are examined and found wanting, the poet's own pain is examined and there is a clear movement in the course of the book towards a tone of understanding and acceptance, the attainment of beauty in some sense is seen as a justification of the anhedonia.

The book takes us from hospital to Gaza, exploring injustices on a variety of levels, Amerikkka's war on Iraq and society's war on the individual.

Everything falls under the poet's lens – passion:

My engorged vulva

Screams for jungle abductions

And whatever would take me

Could not plunge deep enough.


Brings shower and the routines

Of numbness.

That is, if I

Conquer this animal


(Seething ...)


Sepia catacombed

In sweet stench of young rot

The maggot is well fed.

Bloating, we are new made

In concatenated leprosies

In our mouldy hypocrisies

In the death bed lie.


the reticence of nature:

Grass tuft, will you not speak to me?

A blue and brown tit jumped on my table

Near the Arno and shared

My sandwich

As a full bosomed poppy floated by.

Wilted corn stalks in vermilion light

Thrill as magic

Snowy egrets dance in pond surrender

To cabbage palms.

(Terrestrial Illuminations)

This book makes love and passion in the face of sickness, dis-ease, bereavement and a more general ontic and ontological abandonment. It makes the word a lover and an expression of the body's engorgement, it makes the muse a bedfellow, and the reader a voyeur, which is what readers usually are, but not so openly expressed.

Only Constance Stadler writes like this nowadays, only she can. Available from

David McLean

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