Night Songs by Kristina Marie Darling
Night Songs builds within its pages an atmosphere Proustian-no, not sentences running the course of many pages; no, not any simply measured loquaciousness. Rather, we find here a poetry concerned with music, subsuming into itself music's own mysterious structure: sentence as re-appearing theme, a music-like stitch that counters the discursive pleasures of the prose poems by calling the reader's mind back to what must be, or might be, remembered. Here, too, the night thickens with nostalgia, a form of memory that calls into question itself, revises itself, erases itself, categorizes itself-a music, I'd say, that wants to listen to itself to know its own song, to prove its melody to itself with only itself for evidence. It is a lovingly faulty task undertaken in poems just as lovingly full, lovingly faultless, trusting to the book's whole composition what no single poem can claim alone-the music entire.
The mostly prose poems of Night Songs provide us with a poetry of subtle gestures that plays with the borders of reader/listener and creator/producer, that tangles with questions of order/mechanization versus life/subject. Through her use of music as a theme, Darling takes us on an exploration of poetics in brief but well-crafted pieces.
Night Songs is a strange and marvelous collection. In a series of off-kilter narratives, Kristina Marie Darling describes the shifting interior lives of musicians, deconstructs a Victorian guide to music appreciation, then, word by word, erases her own poems. Here, the evening opens "like a black umbrella" while the audience murmurs. Later, a cellist practices as snow falls around him "like tinfoil under a phosphorescent moon." Musicians compete, fail, strive or fall in love-until the dim stage collapses "in a heap of shattered harpsichords." Lyrically subtle and technically inventive, these poems play with narrative and prose forms in ways I haven't encountered before. And they're deeply engaging.