cover image Swan Feast

Swan Feast

Natalie Eilbert. Coconut (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-938055-23-2

Eilbert’s lush, dense debut collection records a woman’s journey to take back sovereignty over her body from the anorexia that has swallowed it. The poems take a number of forms—including epistles, epithalamiums, modified sonnets, and discursive free verse—and center on the conjured spirit of the Venus of Willendorf: a small, limestone figurine of a female with exaggerated features that dates to the Paleolithic period. The speaker, N, claims this spirit as her guide through a battle with anorexia, with Venus, V, presented primarily as an intelligent (“V speaks, this time she says/ The death and life of great American cities is about/ negotiating influences and the impressions of citizens”) and proudly voracious woman (“she wilds/ for nothing but calories and sex”). Yet V has an alter ego that manifests as a shamelessly oversexed socialite: “I’m in the center of a chemical rainstorm, naked as stone, legs smoother than the mirrors laid down for the birthday cocaine.” The multiple voices swirl like a collision of hot and cold fronts; they contradict themselves and combat each other in the way that one’s own mind operates in seeking a singular voice of reason to follow. Eilbert’s array of referents can be dizzying, but her intoxicating language is sure to keep readers under her spell. [em](May) [/em]