Rib and in­step: honey

Chap­book, Rachel Min­dell, 28 pgs, above/ground press, above­ground­press.blogspot.ca, $5

Broken Pencil - - Zine Reviews -

Rachel Min­dell’s 18 po­ems, pre­sented here in the 7” x 8.5” chap­book for­mat char­ac­ter­is­tic of above/ground press, are al­most al­ways beau­ti­ful to the ear and slip­pery on the tongue, but some­times un­sat­is­fy­ing in their lack of sub­stance oth­er­wise. “Some­times” is the key word, here; Min­dell hits gen­uine high notes in po­ems like “Life as we know it,” where the nar­ra­tor phys­i­cally bounces back and forth across the page, de­tail­ing mem­o­ries of her fa­ther’s grad­ual de­cline on the left and dis­cussing the ce­les­tial role of wa­ter on the right. She en­cour­ages deep read­ing and fos­ters com­plex con­nec­tions through­out and per­forms a bit of that work her­self in a provoca­tive fi­nal line: “You will be pretty, as though in be­ing pretty I could cease / to be moon, cease to be wa­ter, thief.”

How­ever, I run into is­sues with Min­dell’s style when it veers away from prose po­etry. Take, for ex­am­ple, this chap­book’s penul­ti­mate poem: “Sedlec Os­suary” a seem­ingly con­se­quen­tial ti­tle, as it’s used more than once. We’re led to be­lieve this poem is some­how sig­nif­i­cant to the chap­book, as it de­rives its ti­tle from a non­de­script line mid­way through the nar­ra­tion: “signed the fam­ily name with rib and in­step: honey in a jar ward­ing evil / off the din­ner ta­ble: cuboid, talus, in wor­ship no longer ques­tion­ing the lucky score for build­ing.” I don’t think it’s un­fair to read these lines as valu­ing style over sub­stance, es­pe­cially when crys­tal­lized in a ti­tle that am­pu­tates sub­ject from pred­i­cate to the detri­ment of mean­ing. Per­haps that’s the point. rib and in­step: honey is al­ways aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing, but sat­is­fy­ing only some­times. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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