13 October 2011
LibraryThing Early Reviewers: Paper Covers Rock & Triplicity
Two poetry chapbooks in one from Indigo Ink Press: Paper Covers Rock, by Chella Courington and Triplicity: Poems in Threes, by Kristen McHenry.
The chapbook form is one I particularly love. There is a great romantic history behind them as the pamphlets and small booklets of ballads and legends sold by traveling chapmen. And there is so much artistic potential in their diminutive size, their general brevity. But this is the first time I've enc0untered a dual chapbook; and I'm not sure that it does the writers or the work any favors. My favorite attribute of the chapbook is the way it can be used to encapsulate a particular experience. Whereas poetry collections tend to span a greater range of subjects, a chapbook can focus on one of these and capture a single story in a dozen or a couple dozen poems. But with two manuscripts and two different poets vying for attention within the same binding, it feels a bit too crowded here.
But on to the poetry! Chella Courington's title poem "Paper Covers Rock" is probably my favorite from her side of the book. I love the way it plays with the idea of the children's game and that each short section of the five-part poem explores an obsession with the one item not mentioned in the title. Scissors are innocent as physical objects with their utilitarian purposes, but they become frightening when turned on the body. With each section we cut a bit deeper into the speaker's underlying emotional struggles. The image is explored from many angles and to great effect. I would like to see more like this.
I like the idea of grouping these poems into threes, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with the result in Kristen McHenry's Triplicity: Poems in Threes. Some of the sections work well together. Maybe it's the titles of the sections that I find unsatisfying? I think they might work better as untitled sections, let the reader find the connecting thread for him/herself. I felt a little too guided along, I think, and it left me feeling cluttered. Aside from form, there were many captivating images and phrases to be found here. In "Letter to My Second Sister," the addressed sister is described: "with eyes glass-green and deep as trees," an image that recurs two poems later in "Drowning Girls." But it was a repetition I found soothing and beautiful. In fact, this was probably my favorite section of McHenry's collection, the last but not the least.