In short: Kristina Marie Darlingâ€™s The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is the best book that Darling has written and the best book that Gold Wake Press has produced. Iâ€™ve read Darlingâ€™s previous Night Songs (also from Gold Wake Press) and Compendium (from Cow Heavy Books) and while both are good, this new book is the strongest of Darlingâ€™s work by far. And in terms of Gold Wake Press, the production quality of this particular title is much higher than their previous titles, the design cleaner, the cover art more refined, and the layout nicely punchy, a book beautiful to hold in every way.
from â€˜SoirÃ©e (III)â€™:
The music begins & we watch dancers stumble beneath dim chandeliers. Their faces blur in every mirror & I imagine us adrift among the hallâ€™s towering white pillars. My heart a room opening inside a darkened room. Now each balustrade glitters with empty crystal & the guests can only murmur. The phonograph keeps turning & soon the night is a pearl necklace Iâ€™ve locked away with a silver keyâ€“
One of the best elements of The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is Darlingâ€™s understanding and use of through-line. The narrative is that of a garden party coupling, but told from a variety of poetic perspectives in time and space, enormous close-ups of corsages and chandeliers mixed with sweeping pans across the garden, the dancing bodies, our heated couple buried within or skirting the edges.
The Body is a Little Gilded Cage also very effectively uses diversity of modes, beginning with tightly woven prose poems, moving into footnotes for unwritten texts, definitions of phrases and words within the collection, and closing with a stint of fantastically fragmented letters.
from â€˜A History of the Phonograph: Glossary of Termsâ€™:
emboss. To impress upon, usually with the intent of preserving. Between movements the phonograph seemed to turn more slowly, heavy with the wilted corsages of last season
from â€˜Appendix B: Correspondenceâ€™:
You were like
bits of broken glass-pictures in a cathedral
night & some Greek island
this is not much of a letter
And while this variety of approaches in a single poetic collection is not new for Darling, Compendium functioned in much the same way, the ease and clarity of the through-line here is deftly rendered and shows us the best of what Kristina Marie Darling has to offer. The only question we are left with in The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is what would happen to Darlingâ€™s writing if she didnâ€™t use footnotes or mock-historical documents, what if she wrote a collection that didnâ€™t diversify its approach throughout? Iâ€™m excited to see the answer to those questions somewhere down Darlingâ€™s writerly trajectory, but in the meantime, she has given us her best work here, perfectly pinned in a beautiful Gold Wake Press skin.
The Body is a Little Gilded Cage is available from Gold Wake Press.
J. A. Tyler is the author of three novels: Inconceivable Wilson, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed, and A Shiny, Unused Heart. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press.