Kevin Saving on
Sacred Blue by Mia Hart-Allison
(Visionary Tongue Press, 2008)
Sacred Blue is Mia Hart-Allison's first collection and comprises fifteen poems together with four short stories. It takes its title from an encounter with a cadaver 'laid out' in a mortuary (the 'Blue' being both a reference to the cyanosis on the corpse's lips and a play on the colloquial 'blues' of depression).
There is some powerful imagery here coupled with strong, emotive language. Hart-Allison's experiences with bi-polar affective disorder have clearly driven an agenda (as she says) to 'find beauty in that which would usually be considered ugly or difficult'. An obvious debt to Sylvia Plath is acknowledged, but there are parallels also with the explorative morbidity which occurs in Baudelaire. The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have given us much over which to grieve, but it can be salutary - sometimes - to be reminded that there is a peculiar aesthetic associated with the scrap-heap of industrialisation, or the early-onset of lividity in the newly-deceased.
This collection can be uneven. It's author appears, occasionally, too eager to seize and shake the reader's attention.
The poem 'Phantom Limb', for example, is written in the first-person and catalogues the sensations experienced by a recent amputee (which Hart-Allison, as she admits, is not). Elsewhere (in 'Marooned') she utilises the disturbing and (for me) unfortunate simile: 'I am discarded like a new-born girl/ strangled with her own umbilical cord'.
At other times the poet is able to enter her chosen subject's world with much greater authenticity, returning with unexpected insight. 'Orchid Bliss' is suffused with a trenchant and insistent, emphatically female, sensuality:
Lasciviously the orchids lick the air
their petal tongues' passion formed,
protruding a rude invitation,
gaudy yet graceful,
floral whores of the sublime.
whilst in 'Ants, Inc.' she writes beautifully of that insect's near-preternatural endeavour:
Each one is a tiny chitinous* Atlas, hefting similarly impossible burdens
carrying much more than Christ and incapable of sin,
kindred to a precision the very stars envy.
(* 'Chitinous' is, helpfully, defined in the attendant 'Notes' as 'the main constituent of insect exoskeletons').
The short stories are more consistently realised, continuing to evince their author's fascination with the macabre. Desecration is very well written: both real and surreal at the same time. The Voice of Ignition is about 'arson' (though the term remains unused). Plagued features a lady obsessed with cleanliness...and has revenge as a sub-text. Finally, Here Be Monsters tracks the course of a writer's brief relationship with a femme fatale - but with a twist. An added enhancement to this production's text is the talented artist Ruby's original and attractive illustrations (somewhat after the style of Aubrey Beardsley).
Mia Hart-Allison will, and should, continue to write with brio. Her work has already appeared in Staple, Black Poppy, Open Wide and the much-lamented, hard-copy edition of Poetry Express. If Sacred Blue now and again sacrifices precision in the pursuit of force, at least its author has things she wants to say and is unafraid of saying them - publically and pungently.
Kevin Saving © 2009