April 24, 2009

Review: Cheating at Solitaire by Quinn Collard

Cheating at Solitaire: Poems by Quinn Collard, 2008.
32 pp., $7.97 USD

Quinn Collard's second collection still largely employs the confessional mode seen in her debut Contusion, but stands out in that the work displays a substantial increase in artistic maturity and personality.

Collard has a gift for extrapolation, particularly evident in "Upon Arriving in Newark," one of my favorite pieces in this collection. The narrator says: "The blown-out factory windows leered at me / and I glimpsed how people become desperate." What I like most about these lines is a sense of empathy. We actually find a good deal of desperation in Collard's work - but that desperation is her own. In "Newark," we see Collard reaching outside of her limited universe and understanding the world around her, not just acquaintances but also strangers, and people she will never meet. The reader appreciates seeing Collard step outside of her comfort zone.

As in Contusion, Collard re-interprets classic works for Cheating at Solitaire, this time with "Hansel and Gretel Revisited." This is without a doubt the most memorable poem of the collection. One of the aspects I love most is the narrator's depiction of their home life:
Son and daughter
Disposed of with all the effort
of yesterday's sports section
Box score
Between twilight and dawn,
It's all the same
One of Collard's strengths is "making it new" - and what is more important than that?

Collard still hasn't quite perfected her style yet. We still see some instances where she falls back on tired or hackneyed phrases. However, these appear far less frequently. One can see that Collard is developing as a poet; her progress between these two collections is substantial.

While steeped in the confessional mode, Cheating at Solitaire also has more of a balance than Contusion. We see glimpses of other facets of her life, other interests. While I appreciated the force of Contusion, I also like the equilibrium featured in this new collection.

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