“Even in the Absence of Proximity”-my review of Christina Quinn’s Up the Down Spout published in Red Fez

My review of Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

download

Looking Up the Down Spout by Christina Quinn

Poetic Justice Books & Art (Port Saint Lucie, FL)

Christina Quinn is a visual artist and poet, born and reared in England, who has lived many years in the Coachella Valley of California. As a girl, she was the kind of person to travel extensively in Germany and ride a motorcycle around the U.K., Belgium, France, Australia, and New Zealand. As a woman, she designs houses and furniture out of next to nothing, walks her dog in the high desert, and has had solo and group art exhibits in California, Florida, and elsewhere. She is tall, bone thin, and wears her very short hair a natural platinum. I have followed her work on line for several years, admiring her large abstract paintings and distilled, minimalist poetry. A life-long visual artist, Quinn began writing poetry much later in age. She has five published collections of poetry, some of which are not available in the United States.

Looking up the Down Spout, the title of which reflects Quinn’s lifelong curiosity and willingness to take risks, both large and small, is a fine collection of brief poems, most under a page long. The untitled poems lay spare lines on a page, reminding of the delicate bones of a bird that somehow still lifts its own weight off the earth and through the sky. As one would expect of a visual artist, Quinn’s poems are filled with colors and vivid images. One reality is often altered by the play of light and shadow to reveal an alternate reality. Here is a poem in its entirety.

under the pier

sun fingers

hold tight to

green algae

softening the split

of treated wood

pink crustaceans

kiss randomly

the junctions

of dark & light

& the sea makes

entanglement

of underworld weeds

slumber eyes

catch shaded

dappled skin

swaying in time

to the tide

he smiles

in that lazy way

& the sea tilts

close enough

to taste salty skin

your eyes are green

he said

Her dreamy imagery here implies more than mere visual description, suggesting a reference to one of many definitions of quantum entanglement, that something exists only in a dream-like state of unreality unless measured, that is, quantified in some way other than mere observation, as described by Scott Glancy of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in his article, “Local Realism, Bell’s Inequality, and T-Shirts: An Entangled Tale,” found in the NIST blog. According to Glancy, based on extensive experiments throughout the world, quantum particles do not have fixed properties in all circumstances. Quantum entanglement is the concept that stuff, like particles, can affect other things even when separated by even substantial distances. Quinn’s poem quoted above, in a few brief lines, conjures the impact of dark, light, color, the tide, on human observation and consequent relationships. Likewise, her dramatic changes of media and approach to her art reflect the diverse realities in which she has found herself throughout her life. Here is another poem that hints of objects being described in reference to each other, controlling effects even in the absence of proximity.

I have been dying

I feel no pain I dream in color

I hear sharps & flats

& speak chameleon

listen I won’t lie

I have been a polite spectral guest

mostly

though not in person

see here

I know the secrets of

deathly impermanence

I don’t lie       

In March of 2015, as a poetry editor for the magazine Return to Mago, I published one of Quinn’s poems. “konigsberg summer” reveals a denser play with language, but also demonstrates a consistent use of color-saturated memories.

the baltic glistens with gold

tears spilled

from the eye of a goddess

calcified in beauteous resin 

lovers who stroll the sand

search for amber teardrops

a pledge to those they love

war came

& when it was time she

walked the thousand miles to freedom

took her boy

a sheaf of love letters bound in blue

& a strand of amber tears

the memory of

konigsberg summers

caught fast in yellow sun

At the time, Quinn said in Return to Mago, “Always a painter, sometimes a poet, I was taught to appreciate language and words by my father…a lover of all things English. I learned to read from the magic found in the complete works of Oscar Wilde, bound in leather by my father’s hand.” Quinn credits her father, who died when she was 12, for instilling a great love and respect for visual and literary arts. He particularly exposed her to the great English artists and writers such as Shelley, Byron, and Blake. He encouraged her painting as a toddler, and inspired her adventures in various media and different parts of the world. As a young bride in New Zealand she diverged from painting and developed a body of work in textile arts, using a neighbor farmer’s sheep as a source of fleece that she then washed, dyed, and wove, developing a reputation for her fine textile artwork. After moving to the United States, she returned to painting, exploring the landscape and human body to create stunning abstractions. Quinn has been quoted as saying, “I like to start with a more realistic approach but quickly move onto an abstract field. I am a colorist so that is a huge part of making art for me. Intuitive color and marks please me to no end….” The Press-Enterprise June 27, 2019.

More painterly details from the natural world, and a subtle mysticism, hint of Blake in the following poem from Looking Up the Down Spout.

from the last step sometimes

I sit & feed the pigeons

they understand this perpetual motion

the four cents in my pocket

& the shoe shocked horses

bolting down cobbled streets

there’s a whirling field of energy

an obsessive compulsion to capture

something tantalizing & out of reach

i feel my dreams have been stolen

others have made silk from my visions

even so

i was born at the stroke of midnight

the cusp of yesterday tomorrrow & today

i can tie three knots in an eyelash

i can make sparks fly

i feed my friends the crumbs of my thoughts

i jangle the cents in my pocket

i watch the horses bolt

& from my frozen finger tips       

i touch the stolen dreams & execute the lie  

Many of the poems in this book are implicitly about a relationship, perhaps failed, perhaps merely complicated. Here’s one of my favorites.

the smell of insanity

& track of quick eyes

silver bells of madness

disturb the air

this autopsy must end

stop seeing the body

focus on the question

are you mad she asked

with a clay heart

he replied

yes

I am reviewing the chapbook edition, which was recently re-released as a perfect bound soft back book in combination with Quinn’s Ricocheted Memories, also published by Poetic Justice Books & Art out of Port St. Lucie, Florida. See more of Christina Quinn’s work at Christina Quinn words and art on Facebook or Christina Quinn on Instagram.

Buy from publisher Poetic Justice Books & Art

Buy from Book Depository

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Foyles-U.K.

My review of Metztli by Xánath Caraza, as published at la bloga

Metztli review published in la bloga

1

 

Metztli Edición bilingüe by Xánath Caraza (Capitulo Siete; Coacalco de Berriozábal, Estado de México, 2018)

Translation by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple

Review by Donna Snyder

2 Final Metztli_forros solapa (3)

In Aztec mythology, “Metztli” is a god or goddess of the moon. Gender is fluid. In some traditions, Metztli fears the Sun’s fire, in others, they wed. Today the Nahuatl word is primarily used as a feminine name. Make a crazy leap from Nahuatl, a living language originating with the pre-Columbian Mexica people of Central America, to the Urban Dictionary. Here, Metztli is identified as a moon goddess, but also as an energetic and artistic girl who is romantic and sensuous, yet innocent. Curiously, I did not research the meaning of the word until after I had already read Metztli, Xánath Caraza’s recent bilingual collection of stories. Knowing makes all the difference in seeing.

Caraza wrote Metztli in Spanish then worked with Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple to translate each story into English with the support of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and funding from the Lycoming College Student-Faculty Research Program. Kingery has collaborated with Caraza before, and she and Hipple appear to have developed a clear understanding of how Caraza’s poetic mind works.

As noted in my previous review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, an earlier fiction collection, Caraza often appears in her own narratives, as a character with a fictional name or as an unnamed author referenced in stories. In Metztli, one of Caraza’s narrators falls in love with a character in a book being written within the same story. The writer enters the book and interacts with the other characters while the story shifts to the story within the story. As described by a narrator in one of the pieces in Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, Caraza’s characters possess the power to “dissolve from this dimension to reappear on the printed page.”

In “Thursday,” midway through Metztli, the main character, a writer, could be describing Caraza’s book.

My book is laden with sorrow.

I tried to convince the publishers that it was a book about traveling, a book of metafiction. But I knew it was actually laden with sorrow, with losses I collected over the years, sometimes as their protagonist, others as mere spectator, all of it persisting through time. Sorrow that I safeguarded within the lines, that remained in the design of the letters, that I exorcized as I wrote each of them on paper.

In my review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, I noted that Caraza’s stories are imbued with Federico García Lorca’s aesthetics of duende, “a fascination with both death and great erotic desire…precipitating a momentary experience of the sublime.” García Lorca tells us that the duende is found when “Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents….” As an immigrant and a traveler, Caraza has internalized a multiplicity of identities as well as the constant pulse of loss and departure.

In “Citizenship,” two brothers left behind their widowed mother to attend university, not seeing her for several years until they unexpectedly appear to witness her swearing in as a United States citizen after working as a dishwasher for most of 20 years. The story reveals a kaleidoscope of memories and emotions: the complexity of grief following the death of an abusive husband, the longing for her sons, the struggle with learning a new language and culture, the decision to become a naturalized citizen. The repeated ruptures in connection mirror the lives of real immigrant workers and asylum seekers, already sorrowful to be forced to leave home, only to have their families ripped apart at the U.S. border. Here in the borderlands of Mexico and the U.S.A., these separations are real, wrenching, and daily.

 

Metztli’s characters parallel the author’s migrations. They leave their homelands only to feel years later an anguished longing for the details of daily life. Originally from Xalapa in the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, she has lived many years in the U.S.A., while frequently travelling throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In “Lemongrass,” a woman receives a box of gifts from what could be Caraza’s own homeland:

[A] dress with colorful flowers embroidered on the chest, canned mangoes in syrup, epazote for frijoles, acuyo leaves to wrap tamales rancheros, dried beans, and a peasant blouse with embroidery on the cuff. [She finds that her] departure from Mexico has helped her remember. She’s spent her first year far from the smell of fresh tortillas….

The mammoth sense of loss felt when a lover leaves is broached several times in the collection. In “Prelude,” college students revel in an unconsummated desire born of a mutual devotion to Bach, Scarlatti, and Nietzsche. Their world is filled with near magical sensory details such as a room inexplicably filled with green lightning bugs. The girl is devastated when the boy disappears, only to bepied with another girl weeks later. In another story, “Thursday,” the narrator reveals the extent of her pain after being left.

I cried in the car. In the office. At home. Before walking into a meeting. Between classes. I cried while showering, while cooking. I cried until the table where I was writing these lines flooded, and the sound of my tears mingled with the sound of the rain…The night is neon-blue cold. Metallic rain continues to fall….

The growing friendshipetween women who are grieving the loss of their lovers is beautifully described in “Gentle Breeze.” “Without realizing it, without making an effort, little by little, they stopped saying those names.”  Caraza’s format reminds us that time is an artificial construct. Perhaps we experience loss in this reality, yet physicists tell us that we may continue to exist in another universe. In the other universe, we may not suffer that grief.

The fire of first love is always unique but can hint of banality when viewed from outside. Consequently, the last story in the book, “Voices in the Sea,” was a small disappointment in an otherwise stimulating and pleasurable collection. Taken as a whole, however, Metztli dazzles the reader with the interconnectivity of its stories and intrigues us when the fiction is juxtaposed with its writer’s own life. In the title story, the narrator is a Mexican who has lived abroad many years.

She had traveled in Morocco for five years, dancing in different cities. . . . Before dancing, she would prepare her iridescent feathers, seashells, jade necklaces, and turquoise rings. She made sure that the pre-Hispanic instruments she used in her show, like the huehuetl drum, were ready to vibrate like a living heart. She carefully inspected the clay pots that she filled with varying amounts of water to turn them into percussion instruments, and she confirmed the depth of sound of the teponaztli drum. As time went by, while she danced, she began to feel Morocco flow through her veins. Two rhythms began to beat within her, perhaps three now, indigenous, Moroccan, and Spanish.

In addition to writing poetry and fiction, Caraza teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and writes for various scholarly publications related to Latinos/Latinas and their shared, yet disparate, cultures. Caraza has won honors in Central America, Europe, and the U.S.A, such as receiving the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain. She has been translated into English, Italian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, Turkish, and Romanian.

Caraza was a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category of the 2013 International Book Awards. Also in 2013, her book Conjuro won multiple international awards. Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings won several international awards. Her book of poetry, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry, as well as other prizes. In the 2018 International Latino Book Awards, Caraza’s Lagrima roja won First Place for Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author and First Place for Sin preámbulos/Without Preamble for Best Book of Bilingual Poetry by One Author. The book at hand, Metztli, won second place in the 2019 International Latino Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection.

While the names of characters change, the stories in Metztli are interwoven, with repeated motifs such as winged insects, birds of portent, and references to the keen pleasure of drinking a cup of tea and reading. Most importantly, each main character presents another face of the same moon.

“I usually think in colors, feel colors, smell colors, see images. . .” says the narrator in “Thursday.”  Both Metztli and Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings describe this anomaly known as synesthesia, the triggering of one sort of sense impression when a different sense is stimulated. Both books are saturated with color and sensuality. In Metztli, Caraza’s subject is sorrow, yet she catches readers in a storm of eroticism, emphasizing that the sadness of life can be redeemed by art and the pleasures of the physical world. The senses counterbalance life’s inherent sorrow, and only through embracing the duende is there hope to encounter the sublime.

Donna Snyder para la Bloga

Donna Snyder

Donna Snyder founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to organize its free weekly workshop series and other events in the borderlands of El Paso, Texas. Her poetry collections include Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal from Chimbarazu Press, I Am South from Virgogray Press, and The Tongue Has its Secrets from NeoPoiesis Press. She previously practiced law representing indigenous people, people with disabilities, and immigrant worker

My review of Lantern Lit Vol. 4

My Red Gez review of Lantern Lit Vol. 4

“In the fourth volume of its Lantern Lit series, Dog On A Chain Press presents three chapbooks, poetry collections by William Graham, Mat Gould, and Sheldon Lee Compton. Publisher Beasley Barrenton describes the poets’ combined work as ‘the gospel of real life shit. . . .’   All three poets, according to Barrenton, ‘live and breathe the same incandescent air,’ as he does himself, ‘whether at the edge or deep within The Blue Ridge Mountains in the heart of Appalachia.'”

 

Read more at Red Fez.

My Red Fez review of new book by Tamara Albanna

https://www.redfez.net/redfez/embed/workembed.php?p=undefined&i=undefined   Read on Red Fez | Read Later