cover image Souvenir de Constantinople

Souvenir de Constantinople

Donna Stonecipher, . . Instance, $14 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-9679854-5-9

Part travelogue, part exploration of desire, this book-length poem, Stonecipher's sophomore effort, revolves around an intimate address to an unnamed other. Stonecipher (The Reservoir) favors short, sparse couplets, which house often repeating imagery and phrasing. This gives the work a sense of movement and narrative, although one can't help stumbling over the rampant use of double entendres and pseudoerotic language (“And I can't wait to get home, sublime/ destination, to kiss you in all the places we know/ the French words for... and all the places we/ don't”). The fact that place and person become less important, and indeed less tangible, than the emotional reaction they inspire in the poet, which is explained rather than evoked (“can you understand/ the astronomy of my tears?”) is the book's largest weakness. Where Stonecipher shines is in her use of the tension between line and syntax, especially when the sonic and imagistic are given equal weight (“a mind/ crisscrossed by a captive// tiger eyeing/ the cardinal// points of its/cage”). This long poem succeeds in presenting a voice as nostalgic for the desire that was its original impetus as it is for the possibility of return to a geographical place. (Aug.)