Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Daniela Olszewska's True Confessions of an Escape from the Capra Facility for Wayward Girls

I first heard of Daniela Olszewska after reading poems from The Partial Autobiography of Jane Doe published by Dancing Girl Press in 2008. Since then, her publishing history has expanded tenfold. Olszewska has published a total of 6 chapbooks, and is the author (or co-author) of three other full length poetry collections, two of which are forthcoming this year. True Confessions of an Escape from the Capra Facility for Wayward Girls, also published this year from Spittoon Press, is as weird and lovely as ever, and I am not just saying this because I am a sucker for poems with the moon in them. The poems are Carroll-esque in its blurring of the lines between the real and surreal and Stein-esque in their willingness to play with our preconceived notions of language.

Another kind of blurring that takes place is the blurring of genres. On one hand this work is a fictional travel narrative, and on the other it is a lyric poem, bold enough to borrow cues from language poetry, and in its playfulness, transform our notions of language. These poems are unafraid to create entirely new wordscapes. Words such as “wallflowerlies,” “monsterlies,” and falsealarming” are quite common in this book. This writing

“…scythes us
in more pastel-y
fixtures focused on the anthropology
of leaving girls.”

Olszewska confidently utilizes a variety of voices in this text, at once chaotic, profound, and quite often humorous. This is a poetry of “the ghost eye,” of “cast iron hours,” of “glitter-havoc,” “death-spasming” and “feral-ish skies.” Reading this book,

"(we glamour-
maul in the satin-
shot moon
tidied up
some productive
translucently re-
wished boned
during the birth-
day ceremony"

This is a landscape of gray areas and of almosts, where the unnamed narrator is “evil-ish,” her traveling companion Ricochet is “our golden-ish key” and the river they are in pursuit of is “secret-ish.” We exist in a place where what we thought we knew is unknown, what we have named is misnamed or unnamed, and the air is so crisp that it “filters our thoughts backwards.”

Rich with a feminine sensibility, this book is “pungent with femme smell” as the women here

tantrums for whenever
we’re not yr first
night wife)"

The short, lilting lines of these poems mimic the shifting thought patterns of the protagonist’s inner monologues. Further, these lyric poems are placed in parenthesis to perhaps signify an internal monologue not meant to be shared, which contrasts with the epistle-like quality of the main narrative. They shift in voice compared to the rest of the piece, and we are left to wonder if we are looking into the same mind of the story’s main protagonist or if we are only seeing her framed in a different light.

Only sometimes does the language of the poems seep into the narrative, but when it does the effect is fascinating. The unnamed speaker says at the beginning of her journey: “Now is no time for salt-pillaring, think forward into a better plan is the mantra I am trying to adopt.” Or when the narrator meets Ricochet, she says, “I have a lot of ancestors on my back” The mention of salt-pillaring is of course a biblical reference to Lot’s wife who was told not to look back at her city as she leaves it. When she does, she is punished by being turned into a pillar of salt. Referencing leaving in this way is interesting and uncommon. Similarly, saying one has their loved ones on their back is an eccentric way of referencing who we call our family. But what is poetry but making the uncommon beautiful, making the uncommon a necessary part of everyday life? Daniela Olszewska does this wonderfully in True Confessions of an Escape from the Capra Facility for Wayward Girls

***This review can also be found at H__NGM_N

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