Kristina Marie Darling is back in full force with another surreal and romantic collection titled Melancholia (An Essay) in which dreamy unaddressed, fractured letters and whimsical footnotes spin through the pages into a journey that makes you wish you could fall asleep and dream about the unnamed characters within its pages so you might finally see their faces and know their magic at closer range. Published by Ravenna Press, Darling’s work allows the reader to “fill in the blanks” and create their own imagery and interact with the poet in a way that is not often presented in the collections of poems by other writers. It would be like opening a scientific essay only to find some of the words and parts of definitions inexplicably missing, letters to other scientists with the names “whited-out” and forcing us to come up with our own answers. Below I am happy to share some samples:
1. To keep a record of what passes in the night. 2. To wake from a dream—to begin a series of portraits instead. 3. To depict the beloved and discover cracks in his perfectly white teeth. 4. To experience a heightened awareness of one’s senses. 5. To ask, to consider, to be led away from. 6. To examine a familiar painting—to imagine a blank canvas in its place. 7. To select and omit, as a poet would.
This definition includes items that would make sense in a dictionary and also includes images and experiences that relate to the poet and in turn relate to us, the reader. We wonder who the beloved is and picture cracks in perfectly white teeth, we think of paintings going blank. We wonder who she is talking about and what it means. It is a whimsical definition of night and the senses in the night. We are left to find our own answers to the definition provided.
A HISTORY OF MELANCHOLIA: GLOSSARY OF TERMS:
beloved. The raison d’etre of the melancholic’s affliction. Consider the graceful line of his wool coat, its fabric dark against the towering snowdrifts.
courtship. A set of social conventions that gave rise to their exchanging of love tokens. These antique pendants, which held locks of tangled hair, were inevitably lost in the great avalanche.
locket. An object onto which her memories were inscribed. When she thought of their evening soirees, its clasp seemed smaller, more intricate.
As in Darling’s previous collections of work (which have been featured here on PH) there are unusual glossary terms, definitions, etc. that the reader is led to discover. Throughout the collection Darling makes mention of the locket, always empty, and of the beloved and their courtship. The glossary leaves further images of the beloved and his interactions with the poet and we are left with the emotions and the fragments of memories in the most lovely of ways. It’s as though we are reading a great love story’s footnotes and glossary terms instead of the story itself and it is up to us as readers to create the story itself using just these small details.
FOOTNOTES TO A HISTORY OF THE BELOVED
1 Two of the darkest flowers, which were pressed in a book and displayed on a mahogany nightstand.
2 Only then did she describe the recurring dream, in which luminous cufflinks gave rise to a series of house fires.
3 “I had wanted to preserve the cold white light that shone that evening. But beneath every door, a little wisp of smoke. The hallway smolders and now my armoire burning in a locked room.”
As I said earlier, it is as though you are reading the footnotes and glossary to a romantic novel and are left to build that story or novel on your own. I think it is an enchanting way to engage the reader and a wonderful form of writing that Darling is exploring. I love the images of the flowers pressed in a book and dreaming of cufflinks that somehow cause house fires in the poet’s dreams. The armoire, I’m guessing, contains all the trinkets and odds and ends from the relationship and I imagine the poet setting it on fire and locking the door behind her when she leaves the room. Another powerful image of a relationship “up in smoke.”
If you enjoyed this brief sample of Melancholia (An Essay) by Kristina Marie Darling, you may purchase a copy for $10.00 from Ravenna Press at:
To learn more about Kristina Marie Darling, whose work includes Night Songs published by Gold Wake Press, The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Fragments and Letters published by Gold Wake Press and The Moon & Other Inventions: Poems After Joseph Cornell published by BlazeVox Books, visit her website at:
Thanks always for reading, please drop in again tomorrow…