The Poetry Cheerleader: A Poetry Review Column

The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters and Fragments
by Kristina Marie Darling
Review by Kathleen Kirk

This chapbook itself is “a little gilded cage” of strange and luminous loveliness, a shattering, as of the prismatic light of a crystal chandelier, or of mirrors, or of stained-glass cathedral windows. It is a shadowy flickering of candlelight on white walls. The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is a book of fragments: letter excerpts, quotations, footnotes. Notes at the back and blurbs on the back cover tell us this is the fragmented “story” of H.D. (the Imagist poet Hilda Doolittle), retold in bits of her letters to Richard Aldington (her lover, husband, ex-husband, friend, and fellow Imagist) and Sigmund Freud (her psychoanalyst), and there are recurring images, themes, phrases, and, of course, dreams.

There’s a lot of white space, perhaps doubling the page count. The opening seven prose poems each take up half a page, or less, with the text set at the top. Sections of text labeled as “Footnotes [on various topics]” start, appropriately, under a line on the lower part of the page. Much of the book has the feel of commentary on a much longer absent text. It is an experience in language more that a set of poems or any kind of linear narrative. It has that odd quality of a dream where things seem to connect or make sense but one thing does not lead to another.

From a section called “Footnotes to a History of the Chandelier,” number eleven states, beginning with a sentence fragment, in footnote style, “An early bildungsroman, in which the heroine retained an unusual fascination with fire. Her coming of age involved a cremation of childhood mementos. For a more detailed list, see Appendix B.”

If you see Appendix B of this book, though, you’ll find something else: Correspondence:

Dearest ,

           you were like
bits of broken glass-pictures in a cathedral
                      night & some Greek island

           this is not much of a letter

So Darling has a sense of humor, too!