In The Kettle, The Shriek, Hannah Stephenson (Gold Wake Press, 2013), Reviewed by Vladislav Frederick
In The Kettle, The Shriek is a vivid, memorable book of poetry, characterized by contemplative and often intimate observations of pieces of our world and our lives, held under the lens of passing time. Hannah Stephenson’s debut full-length collection distinguishes itself with startling imagery and well-broken lines of verse–with painted places, experiences, and scenes that are sure to captivate. Tones of iambic and trochaic meter maintain a clean and consistent pace that sweeps readers into the timeline of our world. A town’s preludes are depicted, as nature meets mankind. A migration and the effects of seasons’ passings are pursued. The sale of a mattress and the journey of a home from the grave of one owner towards the next are remembered.
Stephenson uses language to cutting and carrying effect, making frequent use of personal pronouns in her work, particularly those of first person plural and second person. This tactic lends the work a feeling of communal or collaborative experience. This in turn will compel readers to wear the skin of the poem more often, to stare out through its eyes and try to assume the scene painted in the poem as a given in their own minds.
Stephenson’s writing style betrays a unique perception of the phonetic aspects of–and similarities within–our diction. Look to lines from “In Sink” for a direct example of said talent.
In sink with one another.
In black hole. A vortext,
a message spun of shards
and the air to carry them.
A doppler radar map
bouquet, red in the center
green at the edges, Venus
fly trap’s clamp and gulp.
With brevity yet cogency, Stephenson pulls a romance and the clinging images of a relationship out of black holes and doppler radars and carnivorous plants.
I suspect those who give In The Kettle, The Shriek a chance will find themselves as I am, eager for new morsels of her visual verse to wear as a second skin, and get lost in.