I have been sitting on this review for entirely too long. It is really such a wonderful collection, that I felt I needed to write a review worthy of it. So far, I have never felt like I was capable of that. I still don’t, but at least now I feel I have to try.
Jennifer Crow decided she wanted to be a writer at the age of eight, and never outgrew her childhood ambitions. She focuses mainly on science fiction, fantasy, and speculative poetry. Her work has been published in a number of print magazines and e-zines. She has been a Rhysling Award nominee, and she has had several of her poems receive honorable mentions in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthologies. When she’s not writing, she’s busy taking care of her family, volunteering for various groups, knitting, hunting for fossils and reading. She lives near a waterfall in western New York, and dreams of strange landscapes.
I have read the poems in this slim volume several times and while many of the stories are familiar, Jennifer Crow makes them something altogether new, fresh and strange. She gives them a new perspective, backstory, continuance. The poet’s language is familiar and she lets us into her world easily enough, only to catch us unawares and open our minds to a new world. Sometimes, it’s as if we are staring down into the mysterious depths wondering what might come bubbling up. The familiar is always at the edges, a niggling thing at the edge of our awareness.
The book is divided into 3 sections. The first, “The Haunted Crown,” contains poems of power and those who wield it. And the darkness that reigns with it. Whether the darkness stems from within or is a force from outside, it is never overt; always in shadow and very frightening indeed. Is it a warning?
Tainted with darkness
she sits at his shoulders
– from Second Shadow
Audio – The Clockwork Knight
The second section is “Why I Sold My Soul.” The stories at the core of these poems are familiar and culturally important or are about stories or storytellers. And what variety there is, told from all perspectives, it seems: Muses, storytellers, delusional muses, reasons for stories, life stories, tarot-card layings, enticements, books.
For a price, for a penny
or a little more, I can tell you
any story, any beginning-middle-end
– All Tales Told
Audio – The Cardmaker
“The Last Dream of the Firebird” is the title of the third section and like the other section titles also that of one of the poems. At first, the poems are about birds of a (mostly) mythical nature. Then we move from the air to water – fish and other water creatures – then earth, mythical beings in our image, ghosts and finally the wild creature we all are.
You wake from dreams of inlaid
mother-of-pearl with your hair
in seaweed tangles and your legs
wound in damp sheets.
– Mermaid Syndrome
Audio – dark seed
There is a wonderful musicality of language to be found throughout, as is evidenced by the preceding poem (“dark seed”) in audio. Crow writes free verse mostly, but when she does write formal rhyming verse it is with supreme skill and elegance:
I seek the gate in valleys steep and dire,
through thorny vales and caverns without day:
a doorway into rebirth laced with fire,
an aperture to rid me of this clay.
– In the Way of the Gate
This is a rich collection of poetry assembled masterfully and deserves to be widely read. I’m sure I will come back to it again and again. Thank you Jennifer!