cover image Wunderkammer


Cynthia Cruz. Four Way (UPNE,dist.), $15.95 trade paper (66p) ISBN 978-1-935536-47-5

Cruz (The Glimmering Room) may be contemporary poetry’s answer to heavy metal, and devotees of her blend of cranked-up drama and imagistic decadence will find much to love here. With titles like “Death Song,” “Sister Midnight,” and “Kingdom of Cluttering Sorrows,” Cruz delivers on the doomy theatrics that have established her as a poet of both terror and camp: “God is singing in my head again/ in the voice of an insane woman.” But what sets these poems apart is their obsession with identifying, naming, and embracing the materials of the world as a means for dealing with psychological breakdown or warding off madness. Cruz treats the objects in her poems, such the “gold taffeta/ disaster blouse” and “mother’s long, ice cream-blue gown,” with wonder, as though they have been gathered together in a display for her amusement. This makes for a collection that’s both mordantly funny and delightfully hopeless, as Cruz’s imagination roams between several nebenwelts (side-worlds) while indulging itself in fineries and miseries galore. “In the bruise-like blue of the Gloomarium,” she writes, “you sit, nude, at your Bosendorfer/ in a Dorotheum of music.” But, lest we think it’s all fun and glamour, Cruz reminds us via distress signals of true exhaustion: “I didn’t sleep/ For a century,” goes the death song, “I let its sweet/ Machinery enter me.” [em](Oct.) [/em]