Playing Monster :: Seiche

Diana Arterian. 1913, $17 trade paper (180p) ISBN 978-0-9990049-0-6
Arterian weaves a family narrative of devastating clarity from letters, found text, memories, and more in her striking debut. At the core of the text lies the shadow of terror and abuse inflicted by a narcissistic and sociopathic patriarch. This oppression bleeds into the surroundings: the “red winds of a storm—/ desert-shocking hail on a field” become blows against the body. These poems inhabit an eerie world; even in the present, the light seems to always be low, as headlights linger and presences loom. Unsurprisingly, the narrator’s sense of self seems burdened, existing precariously as a “heavy coat/ on a thin fucking hanger.” The text, with its found-text poems and nonlinear sense of time, could feel fragmented but never does, remaining instead at an emotional precipice. A threat remains; what if something happened to the mother figure, even though she is long rid of “that dangerous shadow around her”? Even at the twilight of her life, she keeps some things from her children: “Just say/ my mother/ won’t tell me/ everything.” The post-traumatic stress of a family is a complex subject that Arterian skillfully describes in plain language, achieving deep emotionality. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2017
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