March 1, 2012 Book Reviews







Kristina Marie Darling’s The Body Is A Little Gilded Cage: A Story In Letters & Fragments (Gold Wake Press, 2012) is an interlocking of poems, footnotes, appendices, letters and glossaries forming a mystical chain of images, memory and neatly crafted narrative.

Before one understands that it is entirely possible Darling was channelling the modernist poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) when writing this collection, one is struck by Darling’s evocation of the fin de siècle, an artistic climate of sophistication, escapism, extreme aestheticism, world-weariness, and fashionable despair occurring at the end of the 19th century. Her aesthetic standpoint is sublime.

If the poems were read aloud and our eyes were closed, a world of elegance, French lace, cigarette smoke spiralling into the shadows and a comforting tender night would come to life.

Your gold cigarette case flips open & I begin to notice the stains on your French silk cuff. My eyes affixed to its luminous glass button. Now the windows darken one by one & from the sidewalk, every back light seems to smolder.


Themes of indulgence mingle with spiritual alienation and aesthetic beauty but hide a sad loneliness.  The poetry is elemental, powerful.

The lilies are blooming & tonight, she aches with melancholia in her dark green dress. Beneath its rhinestone clasp a tinderbox & you are the restless spark.


Darling’s collection is analytical, fragmentary, posing questions rather than answering them. Singular images and objects focus our attention enriching our reading experience as we travel, dreamlike, through darkened city streets, our “eyes adrift” as we espy phonographs, corsages and streetlamps glowing. It is an ethereal world, consoling and liberating.

Much of Darling’s work re-envisions text from the letters of H.D. written to her husband, poet Richard Aldington and to Sigmund Freud during her sessions in psychoanalysis with him. This mode allows Darling to tap into modernist thought and to perpetuate the idea that the modernist writer (and reader) participates in the process of creating meaning.

This notion is reinforced further by the brief structure of the poems, ending before we want them to. It is as if we are being plunged into a glorious, abundantly blooming garden that is open to the public but are only allowed to smell one flower before the gates close. The footnotes and fragments initially catch us off guard, our eyes drawn back again and again to the poems, but then relief comes as we realize the story is yet to end and we are part of a larger conversation.  We become aware of what has been left unsaid and our part in the saying of it.

The footnotes like the poems before them are beautifully written, rich in form and content; filling our minds with unforgettable, poignant images.

Only when she turned the page would the violets come into bloom.



Darling is smart. She is passionate. It would be easy to dismiss the fragmented nature of this collection as being lacking in unity and meaning, but that would be foolhardy because the truth is, each fragment ensures the narrative is complex and resonant; increasingly so.

Graceful, arresting images meld with a commentary on the era – a grand time yet a time steeped in fragility and a post war sense of loss. Darling’s delicate aesthetic sensibility fits this era like a dove-coloured chamois glove. Her use of fragmentation courts us, inviting us to contemplate form and genre as well as offering myriad possibilities for interpretation.


The nature of meaning is elusive. Love, contentment and happiness even more so; but beauty, perhaps the consolation prize, is there in abundance nonetheless, if we but look for it.


6.      She slipped a flower in his coat pocket to preserve the ritual, its delicate structure. But before long the music stopped. The phonograph still spinning beneath its luminous needle.




The Body Is A Little Gilded Cage: A Story In Letters & Fragments by Kristina Marie Darling is published by Gold Wake Press ( Boston, Massachusetts, 2012.)


*Kristina Marie Darling is the author of three full-length poetry collections: Night Songs (Gold Wake Press, 2010), Compendium (Cow Heavy Books, 2011 and Vardaman Books, 2012), and The Body is a Little Gilded Cage: A Story in Letters & Fragments (Gold Wake Press, 2012).  She has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, as well as grants from the Vermont Studio Center and the Elizabeth George Foundation.


 Selma Sergent

Book Review Editor

Email: [email protected]

I am a former teacher and musician. I have worked as an editor and writer for several small publishers in Sydney, Australia. I have had some short stories published, as well as two plays. I also mess about with fiction on my blog. Once I was a hairsbreadth away from a publishing deal with a major publishing house. I have too many full length novels in my filing cabinet waiting to be submitted. I understand the vagaries of the writing life yet remain passionate about writers and writing. The world with all its flaws continues to inspire me.



No Comments Yet!

You can be first to comment this post!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.