{ review by A.H. Lewis of Crystal Stone’s ~Knock-Off Monarch~ }

knockoff

Knock-Off Monarch
poems by Crystal Stone
Dawn Valley Press (2018)

~

Knock-Off Monarch is a poetry collection for the visceral and the shifting, those who are lost and those who wish to find themselves. There are themes of nature evoked through the very title itself; images of southern living as someone from the “nawth” with descriptions of Mississippi convenience stores and conversations; religion with modern twists with titles like “My Family as Disciples at the Last Supper” and “Moses and Zipporah Attend a Roller Derby Game,” to name a few. Stone’s experience as a young woman navigating the tumults of becoming her own person, with femininity and queerness awkwardly holding hands as her sexual and self-identity are explored in her first poem, “First Impressions,” which proudly states, “I first admitted I was queer to a black woman.” The otherness in us seeks out the acceptance that which is “other” around us, but it is not so for Stone: “She/told me I twisted Jesus’ words when I close-read the Bible for her and barely spoke to me again.” Stone’s self is rejected in person so she takes to the pages and tells the strangers she’ll refer to as readers where we absorb her words as she intended us to, with the honesty and uneasy footing of people also looking to find ourselves in others. We both cringe along with her empathically and know that we are getting Stone’s life through the eyes and words of emotional rawness—nothing is spared: not the reader, not the truth of events, and certainly not the poet herself.

One of the most striking ideas in Stone’s collection is her struggle with religion in an ill-fitting mold of contemporary ideology. These stories don’t have places in our times or interpretations for young people, so Stone resets them to assimilate to a better and more updated understanding while preserving their outlandishness. We have “Mom interrupts Solomon” and “Noah Goes to Rehab,” for instance. In the poem “Peter and Ralph Waldo Emerson Walk through the Woods Together,” Peter’s representation of Catholicism and Christianity, which lend themselves to opposition, juxtaposes the enlightened transcendentalism of Emerson’s presence, a style that Stone emanates throughout her poetry in words and images. Peter recalls his childhood: “His brother Andrew stopped fishing and asked/Jesus again, this time in prayer, “what good is/this for many?” The questioning of biblical miracles is a bold choice for Stone to take in the south or for parents who appear conservative in this current political climate (“My dad says, build/a wall, build a wall.), where the Bible is nothing short of a life-commanding text, but for a poet whose life has been riddled with hardship with which no god or deity interfered. “On the Anniversary of My Mother’s Death” is just one of Stone’s references to her mother in such a way, where the misery of losing her mother is both a metaphor and a harrowing reality from which God did not spare her. The pinnacle of this desensitization comes from her poem “Against Faith,” whose very title warns us for the next words: “I’m not building/anymore, I don’t care…Sadness comes without beckon./All winners eventually cheat.”

Stone’s Knock-Off Monarch is for any human finding their place among the heavily-trodden terrain of opinions, ideologies, emotions, and judgments of others while establishing that of your own. Stone is a knock-off monarch because she knows what she is and knows what she is not, but she explains herself in a way that already exists to everyone else. After reading it, the reader realizes we are all, in one way or another, knock-offs of the stunning beautiful butterfly which we long to become.

~

review by A.H. Lewis

~

book is available here:

https://amzn.to/2QT3WpH

~

Crystal Stone’s poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in PHEMME, Better than Starbucks, peculiar, Sport Literate, Collective Unrest, Driftwood Press, New Verse News, Occulum, Anomaly, BONED, Eunoia Review, {isacoustic*}, Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online and Dylan Days. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Iowa State University, gave a TEDx talk on poetry the first week of April and her first collection of poetry, Knock-Off Monarch (Dawn Valley Press) is available now on Amazon. In her free time, she edits poetry and writes poetry book reviews for Flyway: Journal of Environmental Writing. You can find her on Twitter @justlikeastone8 and on instagram @stone.flowering or at her website: http://www.crystalbstone.com.

~

A.H. Lewis is the author of forthcoming poetry collection The Smallness of Everything Else (Dorrance Publishing, spring 2019) and graduated from Allegheny College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Her work can currently be found on her social media pages as well as being featured on various poetry accounts and a publication in Royal Rose Magazine.

Twitter: @AllyyLewis
Instagram: @ahlewww

a review by Crystal Stone of Heather Minette’s ~Half Light~

Heather Minette’s “Half-Light” unstrands the ends of experience: the moment, the memory and the space in between. They exist together in her grief that spans the collection of poems and metamorphose into intentionally half-illuminated meditations. Her poems are dewy with privacy, the light before the sun has risen in full. The opening line becomes a metaphor for the poet and reader relationship. She, too, is the kaleidoscope and while reading we believe, “I still see her sometimes / in fragments.”

And if kaleidoscopes distort, her work, too, kaleidoscopes the light of fiction and reality, exposing the true topography of memory. She shows it as “momentary hope,” but also as pain, as absence, as passively omnipresent. With each poem, memory places a different role. Half-new, half what it was before.

While walking in the half-light of her reflections, she instructs readers how to understand her. Her poem, “A Silent Promise,” seems to be just as much an act of ars poetica as it is a personal meditation of a factual event. “Her tone is too familiar / and the rain does not stop.” She warns us who she is and where we’re going in the poem. But we don’t want to look away. In her book, like in her poem Revival, “the wind blew from two different directions, / giving shoulders a reason to touch.” We’re drawn to look right into the wind.

The chaos is both nostalgia and a reason for connection. We find ourselves, like her, “tripping… over idle memories” she left for us, the way she did in black high heels. She gives us the door to our own closet, our own past and says have a seat, your body thanks you for coming. It’s not about her, in the end, but us–where we go when we meet her.
When reading, I see myself, like her and her brother in Christmas ‘88, “wearing matching red sweaters.” We’re drinking tea and there we are, back in memory, separately together–the way any strangers become quiet when they’re suddenly intimately connected and the past becomes their present together.

In her poems, she awakens what we’ve buried or forgotten, gently. Her words are a hand, the faint memory of the rain leftover in pastel clouds and puddled sidewalks. She makes us unafraid of the mud that might smear on our skin as we read. We’re not afraid to skin our knees.

~

review by Crystal Stone

~

Crystal Stone is currently pursuing an MFA at Iowa State University and has given a TEDx talk on poetry. Work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online, BONED, Eunoia Review, and Dylan Days.

~

Half Light is available here:
http://www.lulu.com/shop/heather-minette/half-light/paperback/product-23679092.html

person Crystal Stone, seven poems

Crystal Stone is currently pursuing an MFA at Iowa State University and will be giving a TEDx talk on poetry in April. Work has appeared or is forthcoming in Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online and Dylan Days.

~

Naming

                We point, trying to distinguish
the shape of the stratus:

                That cloud is voluptuous.
Those hairpin curls

                electrify the vast. With such hips,
it dares us to want. That cloud is

                a prostitute. Do you see the way
it sashays through the blue,

                as if the owner? But this cloud is an
object, bottle-neck length

                reaching upward—its face beyond
the frame of the sky.

                This cloud is a parent. In the wind,
it breaks apart into nothing

                but rain.

~~

On my drive home from the east coast,

The trees are walking towards me,
through me. In this cold, my skin is

a mandala of veins. A barbed wire
fence next to me is braided

with trash. My dad says, build
a wall, build a wall. The pavement

is black sand and the sharks washed
ashore from cold shock look up at me.

I know those eyes. They are not living
mirrors. They are not fountains flowing

and water isn’t wet when it’s ice.

~~~

Only

The lawnmower. The mid-afternoon shade.

From my window, shine of leaves. I hear God
called Moses from the bushes. In front of my house

only stone. Moses looked away. I dare God to show
his face. I’ve looked all over: the bottom of cereal

boxes, the ice cream truck window, mother’s jewelry
box, my lover’s eyes, a tailgate under the stars.

I blew on every dandelion I found in the grass.
The seeds stuck to my hair and I only heard

my own voice. Be patient . I don’t want to be
stung by a hornet waiting. At the Episcopal church

on Sunday, most of the hair is white if there’s hair
at all. God’s people are aging. Do we get closer

to death only when we get closer to God? When people
say to take care what they really mean is go away. I can’t

touch the sidewalk without breaking a grasshopper’s back.

~~~~

In the grocery store parking lot,

the sugared sky powders
the nose of the child who asks

for more than his mother has to offer.
Her tampons look like candy.

They are not pop rocks and the cotton
is dry on the tongue. The mother

does not frown. What’s one more
missing piece? Her son is a breath of fresh

menthol smoke. She doesn’t realize
the slow blackening of lungs,

how her lips and skin are greying,
or that this moment—her son’s arms

in her worn leather bag, cotton strings
hanging out the mouth with a tongue

that spits and begs for water—will happen
again. Next time, he will leave her, arms

outstretched, digging for candy,
someone else’s cotton on the tongue.

~~~~~

Notes on an Afternoon Train

I am stuck between a couple:
the boy closes his eyes while his
girlfriend feeds him over my head.

*

I can see my body better than theirs
in the dim of the station.
My face or the glass is wrinkled.

*

The boy’s bike next to my legs
makes it hard to reach for the pole,
hold on and read while in motion.

*

A coffee is spilled. The liquid
branches out like long fingers
trying to touch my bare toes.

*

The blue of the train is not like
sky. It is a speckle of blue jay,
but has no song, just screech.

~~~~~~

How to Prevent Ice Crystal Formation in Your Heart

Play dead, let the water leave you.
Sun will eventually thaw your bones.
When that happens, just find water
quickly. Most of us die
when our bodies are more than half-empty
of water. Few live where they cannot
endure. Some live anyway. Look:
the wood frog does not breathe
when ice crystal puncture the tissues.
But it’s not over for them, spring comes
back. And Jesus walked on water, not ice.
Maybe he is a spider, silver-bodied,
black legs extended shore-to-shore.
Maybe he is the icicle that stabs the wood
frog’s heart. Less life, more space
for the holy? No, Antarctica is not a wasteland.
Look closer: even by freezing waters,
lice make a hat on the young seal’s head.

~~~~~~~

Where

              I pour whiskey in my lemonade
to make the lemonade taste better:
              the warm-sweet sting of a day now gone.
The ocean pours sea life onto the sand.
              A hermit crab hides his face in a doll
and his legs poke out the eyes. He pours
              his heart into her empty mind. After
the hurricane, the clouds don’t pour,
              they spit rainbows out their fuzzy tongues,
prove that devastation can be beautiful.
              My thoughts are pores leaking, the skin
of the past enlarged. If the book was not
              solid, words would spill on the floor
and I’d splash letters under my toes.
              My lover would hold me again, remind
me he dumped the whole bottle to save
              my life. I want to be trapped in a portrait
of a place where the birds can’t catcall me
              from the trees. I won’t be the porcupine.
I won’t hurt anyone from my corner of the frame.
              My body will be a porch and I will hold
my lover upright. I will hold the birds’
              waste, the squashed bugs, the trash left behind.
I will be the wood scraped porous and
              sponge together the tree, sky and stream.

~~~~~~~~