cover image Madame X

Madame X

Darcie Dennigan. Canarium (SPD, dist.), $14 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-0-98223-768-7

In Dennigan’s poem “Matriarchy,” the mysterious Madame X makes an appearance, asking the bewildering question, “Why Have There Been No Great Male Pietàs?” Many of the poems in Dennigan’s collection are dense, lengthy monologues broken up only by breath-like ellipses and strange circumstances. In addition to themes of gender and religion, there are also questions of religion and sex. In “Catholic Reunion,” Dennigan writes, “Mary and Cervantes on the mattress —/It is not a word for humor girls –/ It means death, little death.” But through “little death” comes little Jesus, who asks, “What came first, the stream or the yearning?” In “The Half-Life,” birth brings death. A nurse at a hospice home that has survived a nuclear holocaust describes the devastation of a stillborn baby among their ranks: “Helen said How beautifully easy to break... I said... firmly... Helen it is already broken... But she... she had meant... me....” Dennigan’s quirky language and light touch work to counteract the weightiness of these themes. Her bizarre poems about dreams and her lovely poem entitled “The Ninth Annual Meeting of the Fraternal Disorder of Historic Linguists or The Error of My Maze” tangle language and clash meanings to create new understandings and misunderstandings. The poems are surprising and evocative, “to put it wildly.” (Apr.)