Darcie Dennigan, Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse

Publisher: Fordham University Press
2008, 66 pages, paperback, $18.99

with a title like Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse, a reader does not know how to approach Darcie Dennigan’s Poets Out Loud award-winning book. Thankfully, the book is as surprising and quietly disastrous as a reader might expect, which is a good thing.

Of course, I do not mean the book is a disaster, but rather each poem toys with disaster as Dennigan allows herself to flirt with the apocalypse. Each poem slowly disassembles only to reassemble itself from line to line. Yet, there is no explosion. There is no final pulling of the last thread on which the poem rests. The apocalypse, instead, rests on the brink, and Dennigan pulls it closer and pushes it away with the care that one may well exhibit while moving nearer the apocalypse.

This act leaves readers with a constant knot in their throats. Do we swallow it back in order to hold our breaths and wait for the imminent end, or do we let air escape in a sigh of relief because the apocalypse has been ever-so-gently pushed away once again? Dennigan teeters on this line effectively, and her language is the comfort that readers cling to in such an uncertain space.

She writes in “I Sense a Second Heart”:

We used gum to get out gum,
grease to remove grease.

With me this logic stuck-

when quiet got too much I put in earplugs
or hit the one I meant to clinch.

I think my mother survived eternity by drowning in its length.

While her language is precise and expressive, it contains a certain amount of familiarity. The language is beautiful, yet not so painstakingly verbose that the reader cannot enter into conversation with the poem. Despite the overpowering images and wavering tone, Dennigan uses language to welcome the reader to join her as she transcends the common experience to find both the sacred and destructive.

Dennigan’s apocalypse is not one of blacked-out suns or of lands crumbling into the sea. Her apocalypse is an intensely personal one, consisting of watching college girls through bar windows and mingling with abandoned children. The apocalypse does not hang in the depths of ancient text or in images of Armageddon. Rather, it lies waiting in the everyday activities of life. It is this assertion, above all, that defines the book. The apocalypse is a disclosure, a personal revelation, not the worldwide spectacle we expect or perhaps even wish for. Dennigan’s apocalypse creeps its way into lives quietly and daily, and Dennigan uses common experience as a template to discuss the dangerous and the sublime as it exists within her world.

Darcie Dennigan’s Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse is an approachable yet entrenching book. The reader, comforted by language, is unafraid to enter the book, and once inside of the poems becomes discomforted by the idea of both leaving and staying within its pages. Dennigan holds her readers the same way that she holds the apocalypse; with desire and restraint.

-Andi McKay Boyd