The Dazzling Land
by Brigitte Byrd

318120-1093106-thumbnail.jpg"Wallace Stevens wrote that all poetry is experimental poetry. Brigitte Byrd’s poems are experimental in the best, truest sense: she brings elements into new and unforeseen relationships. And 'There [is] music always in this imaginary understanding.' All the poems in this book are afloat in infinite possibilities and 'the shadows of exploration.' As she writes in '(of the impossible),' 'This was a dazzling land this imagination.' ” —Reginald Shepherd

"In Brigitte Byrd’s new book, The Dazzling Land, there’s simply too much texture to do justice to the work by pulling out a quote. But one sentence, 'We fed on sentences until words made up lies' is compelling for its paradoxical truth-telling. These poems are so deeply imagined, so funny and profane, so formally inventive, there is little here that does not burn sharply with the experience of truth. This book represents one of the most fully realized portraits of the self I’ve read in a long time, a vigorous mirroring of consciousness. It’s symphonic and unflinching, and pleasure reverberates for the reader in every line of this bold work." —David Dodd Lee

"The Dazzling Land is a magnificent book by a gifted writer. The poems gathered here are expansive in line and breath, soothing over you, the reader, like a cool wind filled with sweet fragrance . . . These poems offer us a clear elixir--to use the poet’s own words—for forgiveness . . . this is a tremendous, sonorous collection, one that will stay in your ears and mind for a good long time." —Virgil Suarez


From APALACHEE REVIEW

"With a combination of poems that borrow from the traditions of French automatic writing, postmodern experimentation, and language poetry, Brigitte Byrd in The Dazzling Land bravely offers the reader a range of work that crackles with unexpected turns and astounding wordplay. Her work is difficult, but if one is patient, the poems here will open up in an intensely intellectual and complexly emotional display.

The language of Sylvia Plath criss-crosses throughout the book. Not just in the raw nerves on paper quality of Plath's poetry, but also in borrowed lines. Byrd slips Plath's lines in slyly, and the fragmented quality of the poems allows for Plath's work to blend. In "3. (sometimes they let each other go)" the line from Plath's "The Colossus" (acknowledged in the book's Notes) "the sun rises under the pillar of your tongue" is neatly preceded by "You were prone to dreams, trapped in a voiceless throat." The surprising movement of images from line to line, sometimes connecting directly, sometimes connecting in a slant-wise fashion, is one of the collection's strengths.

Many of the works in The Dazzling Land take a prose poem shape, and this prose-centered format gives the lines an image-packed denseness, reminding the reader of the surreal pieces of Russell Edson, Karen Volkman, or Charles Simic. Some pieces feel like the language-centered word puzzles of Volkman, pushing well past the limits of narrative and signifier. For example, "(merely of the inquisitive)" begins with this assertion: "There is no margin to decomposition in any language." This line becomes the poem's "disorganizing" principle as the string of phrases breaks into jagged fragments: "A life on film. A puppet show. She did not get the full story. She was not and never would be. Alone like a sound traveling above clouds. Skyscrapers threw her off and she rested her cheek on paper." Byrd rattles the narrative, revealing pieces of it, but hinting how language can sometimes not hold it together.

Other poems skate along a more linear narrative. In "(models of connections)" a scene is fleshed-out for the reader: a woman "on the same couch with the same cat against her hip." A powerful psychological crisis strikes the character, and much of her emotional angst is captured in the erratic movements of the cats: "Now the cats fled to another room . . . the cats jumped on the chest to drink from a crystal vase . . . the cats jumped down to walk over her legs like a red carpet." The images work well to center the poem's skeleton of anxiety.

Though some of these poems cohere via a shining skeleton of broken narratives and playful associations, the language and images in The Dazzling Land will challenge and entertain the imagination on reading after reading."
Michael Trammell


About the Author

318120-897300-thumbnail.jpgA native of France where she was trained as a dancer, Brigitte Byrd is the author of Fence above the Sea (Ahsahta, 2005), her debut collection of prose poems. Her work has appeared in anthologies such as Shade 2006 (Four Way Books), Like Thunder, and American Diaspora (both from University of Iowa Press), and in literary magazines including Mississippi Review, WSQ (Women Studies Quarterly), Bitter Oleander, Fourteen Hills, Columbia Poetry Review, CAB/NET Magazine, LCR (Lilies and Cannonballs Review), Coconut Poetry, Dragon Fire, Pindeldyboz, Denver Quarterly, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Spoon River Poetry Review, Laurel Review, New Orleans Review, and New American Writing, among others. She is the first-prize poetry winner of the St. Petersburg, Russia, Summer Literary Seminar 2000. Brigitte received a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Florida State University in 2003. She currently lives in Atlanta and teaches Creative Writing at Clayton State University. She is a board member editor for Circumference: The Journal of Graduate Liberal Studies.

 

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