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Book Review: Emily Corwin - 'Tenderling'

A Sweet and Sadistic Collection of Fanciful Poems

By Cheryl LynnPublished 6 years ago 3 min read
Tenderling was released on February 14 (Valentine's Day), 2018. Via Stalking Horse Press

Like the faeries and sirens of traditional lore, Corwin's poetry is as dangerous as it is beautiful. Her writing has the rhythm of a folktale and the surreal logic of a dream, with intertwining themes and repeated symbols. She holds up a magic mirror in which we can see royalty reflected as monsters, virtue as vice, and fiction as truth. Like Alice Through the Looking Glass, we find ourselves in a distorted wonderland, at once whimsical and yet frightening. Corwin's skill is making the fantastic seem familiar, and the mundane seem magical. There is a deep pathos to her poetry: She explores fear, desire, and even humor with subtle wordplay, double entendres, innuendos, and hidden meanings. Consider the following verse:

my tall handsome, you are always

hydrangea in my rib, popped open

always dazzle of salt on my punched lip

This excerpt introduces the poem, "Pretty Pretty Princess vs The Underworld." At nine pages long, this the longest piece in the collection. It is also one of my favorites, with its bewitching imagery and impulsive bop-prosody free verse. This is a sharp contrast to the minimalism of her short poems, which are often just a few lines long. Her diction is very deliberate, with every nuanced word delicately balanced against the rest.

The opening stanza for the short poem "Apparition" is another excellent specimen of startling syntax:

blackthorn runs beneath me like a beautiful

flake of mirror, crushed. I have been in the

ground, seen the warm milk from a shadow.

The text seems to tease the reader, but it is ambiguous whether the teasing is playful or malicious. This sense of uncertainty pervades throughout the book. There is no happily ever after to this story. In fact, it's unclear whether the story has any beginning or end at all. This defies the structure of a traditional narrative.

Yet another intriguing excerpt is the following, taken from the poem "Silhouette":

Light flares, then goes out black, lightning will lighten

My surfaces. I am preparing for the cold season, carving an

Arrow, my own red tendon for bow string, rigid for the kill.

This short verse goes straight for the jugular with bloody symbolism and a harsh, staccato beat. The imagery is lush with connotations of raw power, animal instinct, and nature. The words flow organically, and yet there is an elegance to their lilt.

I was also struck by Corwin's stylistic format, such as the complete lack of capital letters (except, of course, the all important pronoun "I"). This emphasizes the significance of the self, the soul behind the words. This artistic stylization also subverts conventional grammar and linguistic prescription, defying literary conventions. This book has a modern, streamlined feel. Detailed in its simplicity, Corwin's writing is an enigma.

Delightfully macabre, Tenderling is a literary anomaly. It is not as saccharine as mainstream poetry, nor is it quite as bleak and hopeless as the classics. This does not take place in the real world, nor the land of make belief, but the doorway through which we can see both, simultaneously. The voice behind the poetry is all important. Rather than telling a linear story, these works evoke feelings. Instead of appealing to our sense of linear logic, they appeal to our sense of emotion.

Emily Corwin is an MFA student and former editor for Indiana Review. Her poetry, essays, and other works have been widely published both online and on print. Her style is a scintillating blend of feminism, social commentary, and introspective darkness. These concepts are often silenced for being uncomfortable or even brutal, but they are feel right at home in the pages of Tenderling.

book reviews

About the Creator

Cheryl Lynn

I am a blogger and freelance journalist, specializing in music reviews, band interviews, and other entertainment related articles. I have also published poetry, fiction, and creative writing. http://undeadgoathead.com/links/portfolio/

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    Cheryl LynnWritten by Cheryl Lynn

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