Tag Archives: Donna Vorreyer

Review of The Cardiologist’s Daughter, by Natasha Kochicheril Moni

Review by Donna Vorreyer

“the heart would rather be left
alone in its cavity, just the heart and its
pericardium, alone, multilayered…”

The Cardiologist's Daughter
The Cardiologist’s Daughter
Natasha Kochicheril Moni
(2014, Two Sylvias Press)
$16, Paper

In The Cardiologist’s Daughter, Natasha Moni combines both a poet’s and a doctor’s eye to create passages that appeal to both the head and the heart. The heart and its many mechanical and personal foibles are at the center of this collection, which tries to articulate the connective tissue that binds us to family, to each other, and to the world.

After the opening poem chronicling the heart attack of the speaker’s father, the speaker takes us through a series of poems that use the elements. In “The Acupuncturist warns the Cardiologist’s Daughter,” we start with fire: her heart caught fire, has swelled/to contain too much/heat. The next poem flows with “We speak of water,” and the next connects us to earth/sand in “Hold Fast to Mother’s Spine.” This movement to nature in many parts of the manuscript grounds the emotion and the medical terminology in a universal place that all readers can recognize.  Images often resonate in both natural and medical ways: a butterfly is an insect, an image of freedom during war, and a type of syringe; eggs are surreal talismans as well as naturally fragile objects ripe with metaphor.

The real and beating heart of this collection, however, is its exploration of family, especially the bond between parent and child. “Once a Father, the crook of his arm” gives us a playful portrait: becomes swing, the play structure left to oxidize./After the heart patients clear, he swaps stethoscope/for the necklace of his daughter, stocking/ legs looping his throat. The narrator also allows the father his own voice in “The Cardiologist Speaks” and shares what she’s learned from him, saying that he knows  that the heart is a house/tended with dream, it gives in/when it wishes. Other poems pay homage to the Indian and Dutch heritage of the author and her parents (shared in autobiographical notes as well as in the poems.) We have tigers, mangoes and the Ganges of India, and the Delft blue and House of Orange of Holland, ancestral histories of the family depicted in numerous ways.

The collection is strongest in the poems that juxtapose the domestic and the scientific.  In “Cranberry Sauce Provides an Improper Dressing for the Modern Turkey,” Moni deftly weaves these images into profound understandings:

My mother wraps, unwraps
leftovers, addresses each dish with a dose
of plastic sheathing. Days ago, a miniature balloon
inside my father bellowed. And I arrived
at the understanding that we wouldn
t be taking this balloon
ride together, or one with hot air, a basket
attached for human voyage. What constricts, dilates.
What empties, fills.

One does not need to be the daughter of a cardiologist to appreciate the realities, sacrifices and nobility of the heart that Moni highlights in this collection. As long as yours is beating, you will find something here.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 3.

Donna VorreyerDonna Vorreyer’s first full-length poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, is now available from Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared in many journals including Rhino, Linebreak, Cider Press Review, Stirring, Sweet, wicked alice, and Weave. Her fifth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies was just released from Dancing Girl Press. Visit her online at www.donnavorreyer.com

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Volume 18, Issue 1 is Now Online

CPR Volume 18, Issue 1Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1, is now online. Enjoy new poems by Maria Sanz (translated by Lola Hidalgo-Calle and Mark Putnam), Tim Cresswell, M.K. Foster, Colin Schmidt, Yehoshua November, LeRoy Sorensen, Yuko Taniguchi, Ben Debus, Mary Moore, Elijah Burrell, Charles Harper Webb, Amorak Huey, Allison Joseph, Cassandra Cleghorn, Jennifer Highland, Danielle Mitchell, Michael Hurley, Judy Kronenefeld, Amanda Doster, Laurie Klein, Daryl Jones, T.J. Sandella, Janet Hagelgans, Doug Ramspeck, Jennifer Bullis, Tina Richardson, Lynn Schmeidler. With reviews of Ada Limon and Kristina Marie Darling by Dave Seter and Donna Vorreyer.

Women and Ghosts
by Kristina Marie Darling

by Donna Vorreyer

Women and Ghosts by Kristina Marie Darling  (2015, BlazeVOX) $16 paper ISBN: 978-1609642198
Women and Ghosts
by Kristina Marie Darling
(2015, BlazeVOX)
$16 paper
ISBN: 978-1609642198
In her latest collection of hybrid fiction/poetry/essays, Women and Ghosts, Kristina Maria Darling braids stories of Shakespeare’s women with that of a female speaker who also feels “disappeared” by an unnamed man. Using greyscale, strike-through and bold text to create these “ghost” stories serves to underscore the silenced voices of these women, the extent to which they are defined only by the men around them. In this way, the title is not about women and ghosts as two separate entities, but about those two entities being one and the same.

In erasures of the female lines of Shakespearean women (numbered “Essays on Failures”), Darling is quick to hone in on the subservience of the language, choosing to highlight/use the phrase “my lord” in almost every erasure, thirteen times alone in the piece created from the lines of Ophelia. And it is Ophelia who, time and time again, in different parts of the text, reminds us that she has been “led and misled” by her love, a refrain that the narrator sings as well. In the opening section, “Daylight Has Already Come,” after speaking of Ophelia, the narrator asks, “But what does it mean to give one’s consent? We are led and misled by those we love, an expectant white backdrop shuddering in the distance.” In “Essays on Production,” a series of grayscale, strike-through prose sections, the narrator, working as playwright, reimagines each of Shakespeare’s women, Ophelia’s new soliloquy telling the audience that “to mislead is an act of violence, a theft, an assault on reason and the mind.”

When the narrator speaks in footnotes in the section “Women and Ghosts,” the language emphasizes the presumed authority of the male voice and a lack of female power. Phrases such as he says/he tells me/ he talks/he tries to convince/he calls/he writes dominate these small sections, starting with “He tells me that my mind is broken. Maybe I was born that way. When I was born, he says, the gunshots misfired.” Later the narrator wonders, “When did language grow hostile towards me. When did memory become that empty room, that dark cabinet.” The last section, an exploration of the meaning of the word landscape, both in the narrator’s relationship and in Shakespeare’s time, points out the time-honored tradition of using landscape as metaphor for women’s bodies, but also for a character’s internal mental state, violence, and free will – all four are issues threaded throughout the book, and they come together at the end in an almost detached and scholarly way, a striking effect.

The use of greyscale text throughout the book emphasizes the ghost-like qualities of Shakespeare’s female characters. Not only do they end up dead (and therefore literally ghostly), but they were also always ghosts, invisible as anything other than property or objects of desire. The use of strike-through and greyscale on the essays which chronicle the narrator’s life outside of her relationship (“Essays on Production” and “Essays on Props”) makes for uneasy reading, both physically and emotionally. The reader’s struggle to decipher the text adds to the feeling of distance and disappearance that the essays convey. Here is a narrator who is erasing her own voice as it is put on paper, and the results are unforgettable.

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 18, Issue 1 and Reviews.

Donna VorreyerDonna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (Sundress Publications, 2016) and A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish from Redbird Chapbooks. She is a middle school teacher in the Chicago area where she lives with her husband and two dogs.

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