Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dazzle - Alison Stone (Jacar Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Dazzle.  Alison Stone.  Jacar Press.  Durham, North Carolina.  2017.

"Don't settle for pale,
idea filled days. Let joy slap
you out of sleep."
                                                                                                 from "Pleasure"

Dazzle is exactly as advertised, the damned thing "dazzles" as sparks appear between your fingers while you are trying to read.  Damned blue sparks that tickle your fingers and fuck up your brain.  Alison Stone has a trick where she leads you down one garden path or another and then she shivs the readers brain to an entirely different plane.

It's a madhouse inside Dazzle.  Stone is writing within a self-imposed and very formal technique in many of these poems but you simply don't notice specific literary technique until the second time around.  The first time you read these poems you do some sort of Dazzle jaw-drop.

After reading a couple of Alison Stone's monsters you are not only hooked, you're hooked bad and only the next last line will help.


My body's hot-wired, brazen as the garter
on a bride's thigh. High on anger,
we climb our hill near
the graveyard, lean against the broken gate
to pass around a flask of Tang
and vodka while stars dye the dull green
bushes silver. Somewhere politicians rant
and old people, their dreams eaten
by money, rest up for the death they enter
every morning and call compromise. Eager
kisses leave me trembling and great.


Alison Stone plays with style for her own amusement, stretching those extraordinary poetry muscles simply because she can.  But whether she is writing free verse or adhering to a tight set of self imposed arbitrary rules - these poems all work the same way.  Stone softens us up with the tender details and careful suggestions all decorously arranged and then she lowers some sort of heavyweight boom.  It is simply marvelous how she sets them up and then knocks them down.


Tossed aside, I'm dull. Toad-
ugly. Fat. Dumb. Battered. Bent.
Each muscle and tendon
aches. Whatever I did wrong, let me atone.
Friends offer vodka, swear I'll mend.

One morning, I wake up. It's done.
Birds no longer chirp your name;
the sun's insistent yellow might mean
promise. When you can't get a date,
feel lonely, scared, don't
call. I'll be fucking a new lover with abandon.


Stone takes no prisoners and takes no sass.  Alison Stone is a poet after my own poet heart with Dazzle.  There is never a moment's hesitation in these poems.  Stone is willing to bet it all every time out of the gate.  Today's book of poetry thinks that Stone has her bad engine tuned to perfection, these poems are note perfect when at high rev and Stone never takes her foot off of the gas.


I love you, but don't test
my patience. I won't share.

I know that
bitch from down the street
has starte-
d sniffing around, wanting a taste.

She better keep her twat
out of our happiness. Three's
a bloodbath. This is no threat,

it's a fact: I won't let you waste
our love. You'll only leave in a hearse.


There's five or six inches of fresh snow outside this morning and it is still coming down like Santa was expected.  That means that some of the minions didn't make it to the office in time for our morning read.  But I smell scotch all over Milo and Kathryn's meagre snow complaints.  I won't mention it because they are both poetry dedicated and work for the right price.

The reading itself was a gas.  So many of Stone's poems start out like the better angels of our hopes and dreams only to reveal the true nature of our devilish hearts.

These poems rang out across our offices like silver bullets and each and every one of us was a damned vampire.  At the end of the reading bodies were scattered all over the floor.


The space between
husky and wolf,
between longing for
and shouldn't have.
between lovers' bodies
and the thickening dark.

Short corridor of last chances,
final flickerings
before moths kamikaze
toward cracked street lights
and the dull sun,
sucker punched by night,
goes down.


Dazzle is exactly as advertised.  Whether Stone is taking apart a relationship and revealing the deep, dark heart of truth or simply musing about the "husky and wolf," if you aren't "dazzled" by these poems then your poetry engine is misfiring.

Today's book of poetry ended up reading these poems to K last night when we went to bed.  K is the better judge of almost everything and Alison Stone's Dazzle not only got K's seal of approval, it garnered actual profanity-laced praise.  Like me, K couldn't contain the combination of joy and awe these poems evoked without swearing.  Today's book of poetry doesn't have any higher praise.

Image result for alison stone photo

Alison Stone

Alison Stone has published three previous full-length collections: Ordinary Magic (NYQ Books, 2016), Dangerous Enough (Persa Press, 2014), and They Sing at Midnight, which won the 2003 Many Mountains Moving Poetry Award; as well as three chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Barrow Street, Poet Lore, and many other journals and anthologies. She has been awarded Poetry's Frederick Bock Prize and New York Quarterly's Madeline Sabin award. She was recently Writer in Residence at LitSpace St. Pete. She is also a painter and the creator of The Stone Tarot. A licensed psychotherapist, she has private practises in NYC and Nyack.

“With a jeweler’s lapidary skill, Alison Stone has fashioned a string of gemlike poems that indeed (dare I say it?) dazzle—with wisdom, wit, and brio. She’s crafted every line to a high polish, rich in metaphor and music. Wide-ranging in subjects—so much to catch the eye—this book brims with “the shimmer, the shiver, the quicksilver / flickers. The sparkle, the dazzle of poetry.” Readers, enjoy!”
     — Richard Foerster

“Stone is not a ‘literary’ poet (there are enough of them)… She is interested in a woman’s truth, and has something hard won (but won) to give her readers. This is strong poetry.”
     — Allen Grossman

“Stone offers lean and sparkling poetry that invites us to join with it — poems that are, in their way, multi-faceted spaces to explore, discovering what we may, and grafting what we bring.”
     — Timothy McLafferty

Poems from Dangerous Enough by Alison Stone
Video: DobraPolskaSzkola



Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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