April 23, 2009

Review: Contusion by Quinn Collard

Contusion: Poems of Pain and Longing, by Quinn Collard, 2004.
28 pp., $7.97 USD

Quinn Collard's first collection of poetry illustrates her grounding in the confessional mode. While it seems the confessional mode has fallen out of fashion in recent years, Contusion shows that the style is not dead.

Collard is also not afraid to steal from the past. Her "13 Ways of Looking at an Urn" is a successful re-imagining of "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," and is one of the most memorable poems in this collection. For example, the lines of section two provide a simple, stark examination of mourning practices:
Etched flowers.
Why do we kill something beautiful
To honor another dead?
Is this the first time anyone has expressed such a thought in verse or writing? In all honesty, it doesn't matter, for when I read these lines, especially in the context of the entire poem, I feel as though this is the first time such a thought has ever been put on paper.

While Collard is adept at the confessional form, in Contusion, she has not yet developed her style and come into her own. For example, in "Husk," she concludes with "I am a husk / Void of emotion." While we know from earlier poems that she is capable of preventing a phrase from sounding like cliches (and excuse the appropriate accent mark, I have not figured out how to do that on this particular keyboard), there are times when she falls back on phrases that are overdone, vague, or trite. Collard elsewhere demonstrates that she does not need these overused ideas to get her point across, and I hope that she matures as a writer, these will disappear from her poems.

When reading Contusion, be aware that you are going to be exposed to the extremes of a narrator's emotions. I for one enjoy Collard's forceful rhetoric and anger. You may not like everything she has to say, but you most certainly will respect the force with which she speaks.

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