Friday, August 14, 2015

NEW! Review of Danielle Pafunda

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison by Danielle Pafunda. Coconut Books, $14.

Reviewed by Brittany Capps

Danielle Pafunda abolishes the stereotype of prissy, dainty girls in her thrilling poetry collection The Dead Girls Speak in Unison. Set in a surrealistic underworld, takes on the collective voice of empowered female corpses and ironically uses quaint language and structure to describe the true nature of women.

The first poem sets up the dynamic between the collection’s lulling rhythms and sounds with the grotesque imagery and sensory elements. Pafunda begins the poem with a traditional pattern and a slant rhyme, “On the front page / life has smeared. // We get no news / of home down here,” followed by a less standard, “No before, no news of storms,” and then throws off the rhythm with a jarring “No new noise, no newsy skin, / on the surface of things,” before switching to prose-like verse. She then brings in a worm, “our sorry conduit,” which will serve as a motif and a metaphor for the female body throughout the book. 

The Dead Girls Speak in Unison includes 35 poems interspersed with “chants,” “hymns,” “lullabies,” and “fragments,” which could pass for sing-songy threats from a horror film. The chants seem to serve their purpose well, as they resemble witch-like incantations. The hymns and lullabies, however, are used ironically as they portray sensory imagery that is anything but soothing. The fragments seem devoid of the beauty and embellishment conventionally associated with women and offer the most “bare-boned” version. 

Most of the poems are written in tercets, giving them a false sense of coquettish neatness. The “tra-la-la” structure sets readers up for skipping in Sunday school dresses, but are instead served “a glass eye / in a glass jar / in the snapped jaw / of an alligator girl.” Additionally, Pafunda uses internal rhyming and assonance such as “Though our sticks are split / we still get eventide / still get lit,” but the auditory sounds and onomatopoeia she includes are dissonant and gruesome: “Your toenails hooked, ashen heels, / scuffing the bed sheets // tearing the bed sheets / to ribbons / selling the ribbons.” Pafunda wants to be clear that the women she speaks of do not play with dollies or host tea parties.

Speaking to what appears to be the male gender as a whole, her voices threaten, “We’ll come for you. / And in your domicile / we’ll paint our hooks // and in your eyes / we’ll hook our beaks.” She claims “We haven’t made any progress,” but swears to keep trying. Pafunda’s collection leaves readers craving more of its “rotten pages.” “If you’re looking for something pretty,” don’t look here. 

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