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Posted by : cj on Saturday, December 04, 2004 - 03:07 PM
Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines DIVAS GIVE BIRTH TO POETRY

Story by C. J. Laity

On this cool, sunny Sunday, May 5th, a group of female poets, both local wordsmiths and those who travelled to Chicago from places as far away as Cleveland, Boulder, and even Los Angeles, met in the historic building housing Woman Made Gallery at 1900 S. Prairie, to celebrate the release of the fine new publication, Inhabiting the Body: A Collection of Poetry and Art by Women, edited by Nina Corwin and Mary H. Ber. The publisher, Moon Journal Press (2015 Woodland Lane, Arlington Heights, IL 60004), is a feminist literary press dedicated to "providing a publishing venue for the great diversity of strong voices in what it considers a rising grassroots writing movement." It also publishes two magazines annually.

Woman Made Gallery is a venue which is celebrating ten years of supporting female artists in Chicago. The gallery is heavily involved in the Chicago Poetry Scene, with such amazing projects as the "Her Mark Calender," a datebook which features poetry, which this year is being judged by Women OutLoud co-hosts Lucy Anderton, Krystal Ashe, Tara Betts and Anida Yoeu Esguerra. The gallery will also be hosting a reading for Between the Heart & the Land: Latina Poets in the Midwest (MARCH / Abrazo Press) on July 14th and a reading sponsored by RHINO on August 11.

Today's poetic celebration, which was in conjunction with the gallery's "Invented Figure" exhibit, turned out to be one of the finest poetry readings I've seen so far this year, with "voices exploring the female body in the twenty-first century" ranging from witty similes, to magical realism, to downright gut wrenching honesty. There wasn't a single dull moment out of the line-up of twenty or so performing poets, proving that the work in this new volume is something well worth the $10 and something Chicago can cherish for a long, long time. The work in this volume, which graced the stage of WMG in spoken word form, is rich with imagery and metaphor, "re-inventing" the body through the eyes of the "inhabitor," as in Jackie Parker's lines "A child once said to me / go and put your fingers in the dirt" -- fourteen small words which together provoke countless ideas of penetration, seeding, and self-respect -- or Kathleen Kirk's breathtaking self observation of child-birth described as "The crashing of a steel gird / to the floor, / one room breaking into two." StarWallpaper editor, Kim Berez takes her imagery one step beyond, into the realm of the surreal, as the voice of her narrator fears an unwanted birth, the anxiety transforming into a "Red kidneybean of an unborn thought / lost in the chenille folds". Through the colorful frames of imagination in Inhabiting the Body a woman's thighs stretch "across fourteen different states" (in "Mile-Thigh Travel" by Krista Marie Vondras) and love-making becomes "tense Spanish vowels / awaiting release." (in "Our Language" by Brenda Cardenas). In this wonderous and sometimes strange world of the female body, the word Dyke "is a set of charmed snakes" (in "Elegant" by Jane Hilberry) and the egg is personified, refusing to do "anything but dangle, rot, and drop / into water that rests / on a chalice I can scrub." (in "Anomaly" by Ana Garza).

The authors in this rare achievement in theme have taken their subject matter very seriously and have come up with examples of villanelles and free style verse which transcend the topic at hand, which flesh out many messages into creations which enjoy multiple translations: the goal might have been to make a book about the female body, but the result proved to be a powerful collection of poetry, the "second mouth" of which bled " . . . several streams / of red birds who landed as inked / half-moons . . ." (from "Father Moon" by Courtney Putnam).

Of course, no short quotes such as these can duplicate the impact of the poems as wholes; and what strikes me about the work in this professionally edited volume is the variety of points of view and voices, each, though, similar, in that they are presented within pieces perfectly identical in their completeness as finished works of word art. Get a copy of this book (call 847-398-3594 or e-mail; it is one of the most important collection to come out of Chicago in 2002.

--C. J. Laity

**We hope you found the information on this page useful. needs your help. We are holding a fundraising drive in order to stay online. There are two ways that you can help:
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