Monday, October 09, 2006

Kiss Me Cold, by Donna Biffar

Just out, Donna Biffar's chapbook, Kiss Me Cold. This is the latest release in the Midwest Women Poets Series from Cherry Pie Press. It's a beautiful collection of poems. I love Donna's work -- it's edgy, brutally honest, and finely crafted. Here's one that sets my teeth on edge:


each morning the same want,
eggs, brown, from a nearby farm,
indiana maybe,
all natural, this need,
clenching the warm yolk
between my teeth, wet
food, muscle, sweat,
what i want, what shudders, breaks,
beneath the shell

She has a keen and sensitive eye for form. She plays with the sonnet form and comes up with something interesting --

Wordless Sonnet

What words are spoken here?
through soft and foreign seasons
the language of flesh, kiss. Now this
landscape of monkey vines and oak,
the one eyed birdhouses,
two poison berries on a tree
we cannot name.

But this is not our garden. Borrowed,
as your body, mine,
beneath a sky we’ve seen
and haven’t seen—soundless
among the frozen moss,
the harsh-barked trees, our words thin
in the hard freeze, budding, even now.

Her poems walk a tightrope between passion and guilt, following two married people drawn into an affair. There's tension in the subject matter and in the syntax and line breaks. The poems are haunted by the attraction and its darker side, and Donna Biffar uncovers loneliness and loss with a deft hand and a direct hit. The language in these poems is powerful and exciting, honed down to its sharpest edge. It has the power to illuminate lust and to acknowledgment its animal heart.

One of the ways I pick chapbooks to publish is to read the poems over, daily, for a week. If they still surprise and excite me at the end of the week, I know the writer's on to something. I never get tired of her sense of sound and her instinct for line breaks. Donna Biffar is definitely on to something. That was evident, in fact, from the first poem in her collection:

When Conversation Thins

Something animal in his hand
when he shifts gears
and we shift
from office talk to flesh.
Our bodies go with it.
Something red in his face
when he thinks of telling
his vegetarian wife, her hard face frosting pink
like the frozen beef discs we see
at the drive-thru window.

He talks about Vietnam, opium,
the organics of LA
he’s left for the Midwest,
where animals become us.
I tell about butchering,
the dead eyes,
the grinding body parts.
It’s what beasts do—
when they cannot eat each other.
We want to taste what keeps us here.
The scent of flesh
gets in, but the brake lights flare.
And the sharp fall air,
the exhaust we’ve ignored
slips through. It’s not summer

anymore. We argue over who pays.
We drive back. He sits at his desk,
and I sit at mine, and fluorescent lights
glare at each of us chewing,
checking what reflects
in the foil wrappers,
the grease shining on our fingers,
residue of what we’ve

Donna Biffar's Kiss Me Cold (ISBN 0-9748468-3-X) is available from Cherry Pie Press. Email for an order form or a list of previous chapbooks in the series.
Click here for a flyer and order form for Kiss Me Cold. Click here for a press release.

Donna Biffar also has chapbooks available through another local press, Snark. Check those out too.

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