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The Curiosities
Author: Brittany Perham
Parlor Press 2011

Description:

Brittany Perham’s first collection, THE CURIOSITIES, fixes its sure and unsettling gaze on daughters and fathers, sisters and brothers, madness, sickness, longing and love. These poems make up a cabinet of curiosities because they hold what is fascinating or frightening, beautiful or awesome- a “stomach plumed by syringe,” a “zoo’s lost leopard,” a “forest of high-waisted trees”- up to the eye. In their image-making, the poems place language itself beneath the glass slide of a microscope in order to discern its component structures, its natural patterns. Curiosity here is a way of looking-unsatisfiable, looping back on itself, yielding only further questions. In these uncanny and passionate poems our own lives are made strange to us, and we are wonderstruck.

Reviews:

“The poems in The Curiosities make a powerful system, almost an atmosphere out of stories of the body and memories of place. In poem after poem, the speaker is mysterious but never remote; the language is deliberate but never staged. And at all times, the music, intensity and craft of the work bring us close. This is a wonderful debut collection.”-EAVAN BOLAND

“With curatorial precision and a starling’s penchant for multiple threads in both song and shelter, Brittany Perham has fashioned a haven of curiosities captivating to the ear as well as the eye. These poems dream in color and sound: bright, chantant, lifting and lowering the music and the light, so that we are transported from this world into the antechambers of the heart and back again. You cannot re-enter the waking world after reading these lucid, eloquent poems and not feel forever changed.”-D. A. POWELL

“As with all wunderkammern, cabinets of curiosities, it is the quality of the collected wonders that matters. A brother’s illness, a family’s disintegration and abiding bonds, the odd dignity of children, a teacher’s suicide, loss and redemption of a vital love-these old stories, in Brittany Perham’s hands, become new. Poems whose titles derive from other poets and poems-Wyatt, Frost, Dickinson, nursery rhyme-serve as touchstones, letting us know that although a “hard season” of strange forsaking has passed, in its wake is a coming to terms with pain’s exactitude and the happinesses that, as Dickinson said, “would be life.” In “Afterlove,” the poet describes her wary hope as “stiff carriers crowd[ing] / my rooms, an army of competing clatter / and rust,” yet she dares to further hope: “I saw there was something still / for each of us to want. // Gulls dispersed, white / above the roofline, so white / I could not tell / one from the other, nor one / from the sky.” Such ecstasy and oneiric yearning are just two marvels of this irresistible collection.”-LISA RUSS SPAAR