By Joanie DiMartino
($17.95, (7” X 10”) Paperback, 140 pages)
Strange Girls, by Joanie DiMartino, is a beautiful book of poetry with a unique voice that speaks directly about and for the spirit of women who fought against and transcended, the oppression and limitations placed upon them, both physically and psychologically, both societal and self, and both professional and private, to live a life that expressed their true individuality. In this book, Joanie presents poetry, which is eminently accessible, honed, concise, and multifaceted in its concept, reaching far into the real politics of feminist literature, and is a testament to her devotion to the cause of women’s rights. This is a wonderful book of poetry written by a woman, about women, for everyone.
“It begins with an exhalation– “Calliope breathes/and this air/fills the calliope” and we’ve entered the raucus world of Strange Girls, filled with squawks and shrieks, blue tulle and pink feathers, burnt popcorn and gunpowder. DiMartino’s Strange Girls are circus women like DiMartino’s own Great-Aunt Josephine: snake charmers, bearded ladies, contortionists, sword swallowers and more. Each is drawn in precise, glittering detail through the poet’s swashbuckling use of various poetic forms. Among the most impressive are her concrete poems, which spiral and skitter through the collection. Every one of DiMartino’s sirens, sufferers, and spider-women is uniquely of her era, and of ours. Strange Girls endure.”
–Leslie McGrath, author of Opulent Hunger, Opulent Rage
“In a poetic landscape often littered with cliches, DiMartino is a fresh, brave voice venturing forward.”
–Claudia Grace, artistic director of A.C.C.E.S.S. Art Corps. Int’l. and author of The Other Side of Where I Used to Live and Write for Life.
“Musical and edgy, explosive and formally contained, as intricate as any juggler’s routine, these poems explore the poet’s compelling personal identity with lives that break the boundaries of what society deems to be ‘normal’ preoccupations or appearance. More than a play upon the rebellion embodied in ‘running away with the circus,’ DiMartino’s poems probe what deeper needs moved the ‘strange girls’ to transmogrify their fates with sequins and circus dust, what lifted them to the high wire or drove them to the sideshow or set them tumbling on a prancing horse’s back. They get inside the skin that has felt the knife thrower’s nicks, the coils of the snake, the tiger’s hot breath. They claim kin with Spidora and every circus woman chronicled in these lines. These poems identify with the freaks and geeks—with anyone strong enough to take an unsatisfactory or misshapen life and transform it into art—and they do not turn away from the pain of this transformation, nor from its tawdry moments, its self-deceptions. Throughout the volume, the poet’s sure hand, her poems’ tight whirl and sweet balance lull us, allowing us to see what we might not otherwise choose to examine. The symphony of sound and sense clothe the freakish subjects of these poems in words that glitter and hum and almost mask the sadness, pain, and occasional horror of these lives. It is a tribute to DiMartino’s art that she sustains us across the tightrope of the book. It is a taut volume. A life and death urgency fuels its momentum. At bottom, these poems mean to reclaim the strength it takes to live “cast off” by family and society. The poems in Strange Girls name the outsiders’ need—our need—to live lives of meaning. In naming that need, the poems redeem their lives, and our own, honoring the courage forged by their necessity.”
–Leatha Kendrick, author of Second Opinion and Science in Your Own Back Yard.