November 15, 2012 Book Reviews















Selma Sergent


MELANCHOLIA (an Essay) by Kristina Marie Darling is a collection of poems one might snatch from dreams. Darling creates a fragile, delicate world that is ethereal, otherworldly, beautiful, wistful, and full of longing, all securely wrapped in a length of gossamer entwined melancholia.

“When he broke the latch on her door, the house seemed to murmur with tiny silver bells. Her locket still glittering on the nightstand.”

Darling’s aesthetic samples French surrealist poetry with its laying out of fragments of life characterized by the evocative juxtaposition of incongruous images in order to include unconscious and dream elements. Her close observation of the dream state leads to a free play of thought.


I remember the silver button on your black wool coat

& also a dream within the dream”


Darling defines her subject matter as –

“melancholia, definition (verb)

1. To mourn excessively.

2. To lose, forfeit, or misplace a love token–to commission a body of water in its place

3. To cross an ocean and find frost gleaming on every shore.

4. To be stricken with a sensitivity to light.

 5. To follow, to ask, to be led.

6. To play a familiar piece of music–to describe each movement as a heralding.

7. To name, as a historian would. “


The definition is transformative, lyrical, a song written by a thoughtful, earnest songwriter who wanders the streets playing her guitar while contemplating the inseparable nature of joy and pain and remembering Baudelaire’s words of barely being able to conceive a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy.

The beauty in the world cannot escape the melancholy in the world. Darling paints melancholy as an aesthetic emotion. It is the distinctive character of melancholy, its dual character and its differences from sadness and depression, which distinguishes it as such.

One of Melancholia’s most distinctive aspects is that it involves reflection or contemplation of the memory of a person, place or event.


“She thought of the bird as an emblem for her beloved’s absence. Its dirty feathers and dark music where his white notebooks had been.”


Melancholia involves shades of many emotions….sadness, love, longing, pleasure and even dread…each of these emotions contributes to the narrative and the aesthetic nature of it.


“Within each envelope I placed the most moving elegy. I wanted to see the cold metal gears turning in his cast-iron heart.”

It is part of Darling’s style to create images that are fragmented, barely glimpsed, like things caught from the corners of our eyes. These fragments underline Melancholia’s elements of dreaming. They are fleeting, almost imperceptible, as if the world is being seen through the sheerest of lace curtains.

Melancholia calls to that deepest part of our psyche where pathos and sadness lurk, where dreams and memories intertwine – where discernment is tender, thoughtful, inescapable.

Reading these poems is like being a dream catcher, thoughts swirling through the stratosphere with a hint of sadness but also wistfulness, where real things, precious things like red lilies and lockets become tokens, casting spells.

 “Her name inscribed on the charm’s golden surface. Only when she fastened the clasp would the music begin again.”

Kristina Marie Darling’s Melancholia is a beautiful work full of dreams, memories and elegance. The nature of the language is almost felt rather than spoken. We do not even necessarily read it as we turn the pages, we absorb it….we hasten after it.


Kristina Marie Darling is the author of three full-length collections of poetry: 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, 2011). Melancholia, An Essay is published by Ravenna Press (2012).




Selma Sergent

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.



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