Review: The Möbius Strip Club of Grief

Bianca Stone (Someone Else's Wedding Vows) tours a lurid netherworld of souls--both lost and found--in her imaginative and incisive poetry collection The Möbius Strip Club of Grief.

Stone begins by saying, "The dead don't want your tips. They just/ want you to listen to their poems." The collection positions the reader as an observer in a swirl of voices: complaints, joys and revelations hidden in the living world but repressed no more. Stone occupies this liminal psychic space, this other dimension, which is brimming with secrets and regrets. To get in, she explains, one must show the bouncer a scar. Strippers, grandmothers, women of genius and a "great cosmic cow," among others, share the stage, all connected by their grief and mistreatment in life. In their purgatorial death, however, they're able to vindicate themselves.

As a poet, Stone writes mostly in free verse, though her lines, smooth and precise, occasionally rhyme. In "Lap Dance," two wrens get caught in the rafters of the Möbius Strip Club of Grief: "Chirps rained like sparks/ from the electric saws in their hearts." Stone's poetic images are exquisite. She takes the rawness of her subject matter and focuses it in sharp, erotically charged constructions. In "A Brief Topography of the MSCOG," the poet describes "the dungeons of the mind, the most defeated cells, wherein cruelty cums." There's something almost masochistic about these explorations of grief. Freedom for the limbo-dwellers and the penitents depends on their ability to endure pain. Only then can they "let the moths land where they will."

Some of Stone's best poems have little to do with the conceit of the strip club and serve more as her personal reflections. In "Letter to a Letter to the Editors," she uses verse to criticize criticism of poet Anne Sexton, whom family members accused of unprovoked attacks. Quoting Emily Dickinson, and arranging stanzas in block paragraphs, Stone defends Sexton and explains how poets clash with "agreed-upon concepts" that form normative reality: "I/ think a poet will see truth through a distorted reverence/ for the underlying truth of shadows."

The Möbius Strip Club of Grief showcases a talent who is bold, original and highly attuned to human suffering, though the collection is not without moments of humor. Stone's wild and ingenious exhibitionism exposes the psyche's innermost sensitivities--a literary strip club for the soul. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: Poet Bianca Stone displays the vicissitudes of human grief in various characters and personal reflections in this imaginative, powerful poetry collection.

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