Poetry review – KISSING IN THE DARK: Carla Scarano follows Pat Edwards in a poetic exploration of identity and relationships
A condensed, intimate pamphlet of nineteen poems, Kissing in the Dark is an exploration of relationships that delves into the complex reality of gender in search of a possible identity that is never taken for granted. The poems playfully dissolve certainties and question wholeness in an open vision that is diverse and intriguing. Different situations, encounters and family are sharply observed and deftly conveyed, leaving the impression of a deeply considered reasoning.
The poem ‘Kissing in the Dark’ sets the tone:
What if you were led blind-fold into a room, held out your arms to locate the person selected for you. […] What if you began to like it, felt that sexual pang doing cartwheels in your gut, because aroused.
The poem is sensual and thought-provoking; it communicates unexpected pleasure in an apparently awkward situation. There is control and, at the same time, surrender to chance. The unknown unexpectedly unveils intense feelings: desire but also acceptance of the unpredictable, where curiosity is mixed with joy. It is a process of self-discovery in which the individual searches for their secret sides via a sequence of poetical images. These seem to contradict common sense but are actually ways to investigate:
Mary avoided cracks and spaces in between, afraid she might disappear. She lingered on the flat rounds, safe holy wafer disks, dissolved old troubles on her salty tongue. At the end of the garden, a rotten wooden shed for self-harm and tears on bad days. [‘Quite contrary’]
Gender and personality are turned upside down, disassembled and reassembled in a precarious final product that invites a rethinking of the roles society offers. There seems to be no boundary or border to the introspection and to the interweaving of different perspectives and realities, where people can navigate in a continuous scrutiny, reinventing themselves:
Come to me my sister, hormone cocktail in your hand. Come now, testoster-right, testoster-wrong. Come to me cock-sure or sewn; vaginal duplicity is your choice, testoster-right, testoster-wrong. [‘Sister’]
The playfulness conveyed by the repetitions invites the reader to take part in a dance of sorts that engenders new visions and verbalises possible diverse routes. Rebelling against and/or surrendering to the opportunities and dreams are options that are contemplated and cherished in the poems. Life can offer these chances whether we believe in them or not.
‘Cut’ is the poem that better reveals Edwards’s prosodic skilfulness and richness of imagination:
I love glass, the danger of it, what sand is capable of in transformation. I love it’s [sic] clarity and opaqueness, it’s [sic] colours and refraction. I love that I can drop it, watch it shatter in the street like a good night out, or bounce on the shag pile, a slow motion disaster. Glass magnifies and diminishes, is its own sharp hall of mirrors, distorting the view if you look too hard.
Eventually the narrator of the poem cuts her hand with a piece of glass and has to rush to A&E; nevertheless, she loves ‘the danger of it’. This reflects the risk-taking attitude that pervades some of the poems and suggests that, in order to understand who we are, taking some risks or being daring might be necessary. The qualities of glass are therefore cleverly identified and analysed, expanding its significance and connecting it to experience and to the self in a reappropriation that is also a loss in the incident of the cut. Life might be hazardous but the thrill of the unexpected, the precarious, perilous side, is alluring.
This is a brief but dense collection of poems that questions and engages the reader in a search for a more defined self – that is, for an openness to different interlacing routes that the individual might travel along. This is an exploration that is risky but appealing.