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Conspiracy of Beauty

38 pages
Perfect-Bound Trade Paperback
First Edition
Review Copy: Paperback
Gertrude Press
Portland, Oregon, USA
Available HERE
Review by Eric Shonkwiler

The best books, whether poetry or prose, teach the reader how to read the work. Christina Collins’ debut collection of poetry does just that, and more. Its lines are universal lessons, ones you could apply not only to Conspiracy, but to all poetry, to life. Collins seems acutely aware of this, opening the collection with “Primer”:

A well-placed

break is a little jewel. Your breath
catches in your throat. Here is
a beautiful metaphor, the jewel at your throat.

The poem continues gently, ends gently, completes the lesson. You could do worse than to include Collins’ words at the beginning of every collection, or simply remind yourself of them, when starting to read something new. But Conspiracy of Beauty doesn’t linger on a lesson, or trod the same ground over again. Conspiracy is a project of its own, interested in beauty and the body, all the delicate parts of a person—

all dumb flesh, or all slick bone, or a
membrane, grapeskin-tight, ripe with lymph …

Collins is at her best when she acknowledges her gift for rapport with the reader, the reader in the place of the subject, of the intended audience. Lines wink, acknowledge the wink. The reader is charmed, dazzled. From “Tongue (To)”:

I know
you will like this estimation
could love it, even—
an avalanche,
in love with the mountainside.
A bootblacked heart
dressed up as a coal mine …

The collection is all too brief. The reader is geared up, taught well, and then we’re left to our devices. But Collins has done great work here, and this is the start of a bright future. From “What We Have Lost”:

We could join hands
and go together,
the whole lonely sum of us.
We would be complete then,
or close enough.

Conspiracy of Beauty teaches the reader to leave, too.

Eric Shonkwiler is the author of the novel, Above All Men, chosen as a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, and the Luminaire Award for Best Prose-winning short story and novella collection, Moon Up, Past Full. His second novel, 8th Street Power & Light, is forthcoming from MG Press in fall 2016.

• This book was sent to Alternating Current from the author after the reviewer had a reading event with the author and brief online interactions over social media. • Permalink • Tag: The Volt •


Richard said...

You're tempting me, a hard-line anti-poetry person, to buy this book. Is "Shonkwiler" the word for sorceror in some language or another?

Eric Shonkwiler said...

It is, in the language only Shonkwilers speak.