You Darling Thing
Monica Ferrell’s second collection of poems You Darling Thing is a sly brilliant thing. Each poem is as precise and deadly as a pearl-handled pistol, as she takes fantasies imposed on women and aims the gun back at us with devastating wit. The bride in these lavishly imagined fairy tales is a murderess, a voyeur; her heart is a “feral marble machine.” The speaker role-plays in period lace and furs, re-imagining the voices of fallen heroines like Emma Bovary and Arachne so that they are alluring, alive, and superbly poisonous. I love this book.
CATHY PARK HONG
Ferocious, smart, and sublime—fainthearted readers may inch, though Monica Ferrell’s poems never do. When she confronts a mystery—sex, longing, horror, humor, or the “oh god please no” arenas of life, the poems in turn confront us with all our denial and laziness and illusions of being OK. We are in trouble; this poet knows all about it. This is terrifyingly brilliant. Ferrell’s techniques are revelatory: poems about sexual objectification are delivered in a tone of analytic authority—the poet reclaims subject-hood for her speaker, wields her power over the poem as object, turning the tables. Poems about nightmarish fears, cold anguish, deep strangeness, eros and anxiety and hope—the poet weirds and wilds them—both brandishing and tempering their potency with her skill, heart, and mind. Who else can do this ingenious work besides Monica Ferrell? Who else has the emotional intelligence to outwit despair, the artistry to take scalpel and awl to trauma and desire, injustice and love, and transform it with her laser eye into a voice of power and overwhelming beauty? Ferrell’s polymorphous, multitudinous gifts are singular.
Reading Monica Ferrell’s You Darling Thing is like walking through a cosmos of brilliant women describing themselves in exaggerated bravura even when danger looms. “I feel the feral marble machine of my heart leak mercury,” says the Tourist Bride, who is only one of many variations of bride that populate this noir collection filled with persona poems spoken in the voice of Emma Bovary, a tiger “abandoned at the hunt’s end,” and a fifteenth-century Italian princess who died in childbirth, among others. Though the men in this collection are often dangerous, their blue eyes “malevolent as the circles of gas on a stove, as the blue kiss on the matchstick / at drags a house down,” these are poems investigating love, where love is vexed, elusive, threatened by violence. “Love is a currency everyone wants,” writes Ferrell, and we watch the shady transactions with guilty pleasure. Despite the eros and the sensuality in these gorgeous otherworldly poems, human touch is still a distant country and “what you so often think / Belongs to you does not belong to you at all.” Brides and grooms in all their ventriloquy speak to and past each other while “desire keeps rippling their transparent skin.”