Christine Stoddard’s latest book of poetry and images is magical, mystical and powerfully feminist- and at the same time deceptively simple. Most of the poems in her collection are short, and deal with the feminine in all its myriad aspects- addressing unrequited love, family secrets, menstruation, sisterhood, the everyday struggles that all women face under patriarchy, the little victories in spite of it and so on. And almost all of them are pretty poignant, evocative and soft.
And that’s one of my favorite things about Stoddard’s writing. Her language is tender and full of love, even when the subject matter gets dark- there is an all-pervasive thread of softness, empathy and kindness that underlies all her works. In a world ravaged by violence and masculine aggression, Stoddard’s poems are composed in the language of softness, in the language of flowers, and there is a powerful sort of strength that emanates from it and is full of promise and hope.
I also love how she prefigures nature in her poems and photographs-tales of puffin birds, of fishes and crabs, forests that have come to life, the grace of snails and the poison of mushrooms. These little animal and bird motifs also adds a sense of the folkloric to Belladonna Magic. In fact one of the key strengths of the book lies in the careful negotiation of the magic and the mundane, and turning small moments into fairytales.
And finally her carefully edited photo illustrations and collages are so beautiful that you could easily get lost in them and they are thematically well paired with her words. Constellations, flowers, cultural markers of feminity and a trail of magic in the urban wilderness keep recurring in the images and while some are more striking than others, they each have a story to tell.
There are so many mesmerizing pieces to choose from but “Mary In Wyoming”, “A Subject in Her Son’s Kingdom” and “Not My Grandmother’s Daughter” were some of the pieces I found particularly memorable. In short, I’d say Belladonna Magic makes for an easy and enchanting read. This is the sort of book you keep by your bedside table and turn to a random page for reassurance. It is a book that celebrates womanhood and is something that you can gift to your fellow sisters and lovers and witches, to share in and celebrate the magic.
5/5 Much recommended.
About Christine Stoddard: She is a Salvadoran-American writer and interdisciplinary artist who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is available for commissioned and contracted work in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
Follow her on Instagram and find out more about her work and her books here.
I’m always open to reviewing books of poetry or novels in the genres of YA, fantasy, sci-fi, magic realism, speculative fiction, as well as non fiction books on magic and comics, so if you want your book featured on my blog & promoted on my social media channels, do feel free to contact me.