REVIEWS BY A CAPPELLA ZOO




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Occasionally, we get the opportunity to share our thoughts on the outside work of our past contributors, as well as other projects that we think would interest readers of A cappella Zoo. To send something for possible review, especially new work relevant to magic realism and slipstream, email us at editorATacappellazoo.com.




LETTERS FROM ROOM 27 OF THE GRAND MIDWAY HOTEL


Poems by Margaret Bashaar. Blood Pudding Press, 2011.



When I opened this chapbook, there was a fluttering of items to the floor: a blue fabric rose petal, a golden leaf, dark photos the size of business cards. Ephemera. The chapbook itself is punch hole bound with ribbon that started to fray within days. There are places inside where the type is ever so slightly blurred, the ink bleeding into the grains of the page. This is not a collection for those seeking austerity. With this chapbook, Margaret Bashaar and Blood Pudding Press provide a sensual experience of beauty and flaw not unlike the experience of being human.

Bashaar and Blood Pudding Press have also matched form to content well. Up close, the poems focus on a young woman named Claire, recounting her dark sexual experiences one summer at the haunted Grand Midway Hotel in Pennsylvania. There is the demon hunter who slaps her ass and lies with her in the cemetery; the Proprietor who “tied her to his body to make her / into a sacrifice for the Monkey God”; and what seems like countless other “hands on hands on waists and waists / pressed to one another,” but narrative becomes intentionally blurry when distinguishing between lovers. Perhaps there is only one lover. Perhaps it is the Proprietor whose existence is confirmed with his very own poem, “The Proprietor of the Haunted Hotel Considers Settling Down.” But then again, Mary is given two poems and she is more apparition than character, first seen gift-wrapping her secrets and last seen wading out to sea. Perhaps Mary is the lover of the demon hunter who cheats on her with Claire. Perhaps she is Claire. Again, the blur feels intentional, another way of saying, “Claire slowly turns August into sheets / of black ash, unmakes the nights of summer.” These are memories seen through the haze of smoke, the smudge of ash. The poems feel more like an attempt to bury and forget than a means of remembering. Which brings us back to the idea of ephemera.

Ephemera, noun, plural: “Items designed to be useful or important for only a short time.”* The poems are well-crafted moments that indulge the senses while disturbing the mind: “She swears it’s like sinking her teeth into raw meat.” Bashaar clearly believes in the integrity of the line: linebreaks follow strong words, leave behind strong images by keeping syntactic units whole or parsing them wisely to create new meaning. The poems assert themselves and the reader feels their significance when the book is open, yet once the book is closed, the individual poems fade quickly from memory. What remains in the memory is that blur. These are not poems in Auden's tradition of "memorable speech." Rather, these poems are best likened to a haunting. Perhaps at the Grand Midway Hotel.

*Definition from dictionary.reference.com

— Lisa McCool-Grime, poetry editor, A CAPPELLA ZOO