Review: ‘Hypergraphia’

Haley Brown ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

“HYPERGRAPHIA: the driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write.”

So begins Brenna Kleiman’s debut poetry chapbook, a collection of three acts with an additional “interlude” of five poems between acts one and two. Looking through the table of contents presents an eclectic array of titles; from one-word punches like “Cruelty,” “Quirks,” and “Solstice” to “Graveyard Pillow Talk,” “Athena After the Breakup,” and “The Patron Saint of Blue.”

Some of the work in the collection does feel a little rehashed — freckles described as constellations, reliance on present tense, a tendency toward second person. Still, the poet usually manages a kind of creative re-energizing in these pieces that allows for a jolt of clarity. The first piece, a prose poem called “Shiner”, sets the collection off to a delicious start with its collage of celebrity and pain. “Everyone’s dying to be famous,” the narrator concludes. “We’ll punch ourselves in the face if it means someone will ask about the black eye.”

These poems explore a number of dark themes, many of them dealing with the shift in identity that comes from being a mostly-dependent adult, still carrying all the demons and disorders instilled by parents and upbringing. In many of the pieces, the narrator seems to be pointing her own self-deprecating finger back at herself, and none moreso than in the enigmatic “Graveyard Pillow Talk.” “As if you were the first to call the constellations a metaphor/ for loved ones,” she writes. “[…]As if you were the first to dream about your lover/ starving to death. As if you are anything more than an accident.”

One of the most intriguing works in the collection is a prose poem titled “God Takes a Knitting Class At His Local Recreation Center.” Edith and Penny, God’s elderly knitting class friends, ask him about his projects. God is a beginner, but says he would like to knit a universe sometime, after a pattern he found online.

“I tried that once,” says Penny. “Once you see the pattern, you can’t resist, can you?” She admits her own half-finished universe has been sitting in the trunk of her car for thirty years. “I still think about the damn thing.”

Many of the poems are fragments of memory, their meanings unclear, sometimes infused with bits of dialogue that obscure as much as they enlighten. These are best of all. “Virgin”, in the third act, is mesmerizing with its colors, textures, and smells seeping through the paper, and “American Girl”, in the second act, is as haunting and implacable as the hoarders’ house it describes.

The collection is fascinating and mostly very fresh, with a penchant for gallows humor and absurdist imagery. The result is an an intriguing stew of personal history and fantastical metaphor, blending in a wealth of observations and topped off with just a hint of the surreal.

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