[10.5 ToC]



Ohio Violence
Alison Stine
University of North Texas Press, 2009

Reviewed by Virginia Konchan

[Review Guidelines]

Football country—the flat, corn- and dairy-teeming vista of the Heartland State—is where the maturation of Ohio Violence’s speaker unfolds, amidst taxonomies of the natural world: injured mares, deer, raptors, which, "When hurt...recall each other." Part homage to road kill and rehabilitated wildlife, the book’s preoccupations are an unlikely backdrop for a radical interrogation of the modalities of narrative discourse. "Believe me," the speaker of "When the Hand is a Knife" urges. "I am telling you a story." This poem defines the problem at hand: the incidence(s), foremost, of trauma, and the subsequent need to find a form that might demystify the dubiously literal question of what happened, while asking, provocatively, "Does it matter if it didn’t happen." Inordinately sensitive to the fact that someone is invariably diminished in the act of becoming ("When I think about my body/ formed in my mother, I think/ about the order that must have been lost") Stine’s gift for grittily embodied imagery is overpowering: "How you/ are dead, and dead, I might/ liken you to the toy horse, drowned/ in the fish pool, the way all toys/ meet violent ends, legs crossed/ in axis, eyes full of milk" (from "In the Limbo of Lost Toys"). Many of these poems have centered margins and rough enjambments; its locutions are similarly unpredictable. While the speaker’s repetition of the word love (inextricable, here, from halving or being halved) risks sentimentality, it seems fitting, as the Herculean task she sets forth is to decode desire ("These nights I think I know what the world wants") and win back the beloved, from death. "I didn't tell anyone until you were still...gone/ from my arms and the arms of this world,/ the way you had always, already/ been, the way you have always wanted." Ohio Violence strikes a chord between the two impulses behind creation: to interpret (graft meaning upon) experience, and also fabulation, trawling the interstitial world between life and dream.