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Destroyed Dresses By, Cara Brennan,
This review is from: Destroyed Dresses (Paperback)
Destroyed Dresses represents the first time that all of Cara Brennan's poems have appeared in a single volume. Like the subject of `Freight Train', the poetic voice in Destroyed Dresses seeks to reflect the "small parts of your existence / Tracking a life". The young poet from North Yorkshire softly traces the development of an intimate voice via the leitmotif of dresses and, more thematically, the insulated skin that both encapsulates and then eventually dissolves as we grow.
Brennan has an assured poetic voice and asserts herself in the opening stanza with the sibilant: "The October sun breeds / cataracts, the breeze / freezes my bones." There is a euphony in her words that sweeps past the reader and brings them intimately into the very breeze that causes the figure to pull the eponymous quilt over their body. The opening poem establishes the theme of protection and hints at the eventual denouement of renewal through the recycled dresses. Remnants of old dresses are still perceptible in the quilt's patchwork like the silver tracks left in the snow of `Fifth Birthday' and suggest a nostalgic past encroaching on the present. It is fitting that Brennan has her poetic `I' "clutching...skin, pin-spotted with fire" in pain, bereft of her mother's eyes whilst she instead slept inside the walls of a blue tent. With the desecration of the skin, her collection thematically accelerates as, like the sticks in `Pooh Sticks', she floats downstream alone and towards maturity. Roles change, emotions evolve and the outer layer of our ineffable emotions mature. Despite appearing frequently in the early poems, the poet chooses to remove the presence of adults. `Nibbler' has the protagonist maternally protect a five-week old animal and "trace his dreams in the ghost of trees."
Destroyed Dresses suggests a need to affirm oneself and to define the entity that inhabits these changing dresses. As the voice looks into a mirror which "is from / the thirties because of its edge" there is the moment of lucidity as the voice appreciates that the frame "changes / era with the things it frames". `Attic', `Sequin Dress' and `Missing the Walk at Nabb Hill' all "trace the soft outline" of the voice's experience and provokes the collection's thematic conclusion. `Cherry Beer' shows Brennan at her attentive best, rendering the most minor moments of experience with discerning sensibility the poem announces a sense of maturity: "we were so new". The nebulous emotion depicted in `Nibbles' and the vulnerability of `Quilt' have evolved and transmigrated.
Brennan's poetic ambition is fulfilled in `Wool, Skin, Fur' as she thematically fuses together dresses, emotion and maturity. History ties itself to the tangible materiality of a Duffel coat or a fake-fur. By synthesizing her jackets, her history alongside the `the suede bomber, denim jacket with cord trim' of another shows how no longer is there a need to feel like `an animal in a strange habitat'. There is calmness to how Brennan closes her collection. Without sensationalizing her poetic vignettes, Brennan explores the disconcerting feeling inside us as we grow and suffuse and stretch new dresses, new jackets.