Book Review: “Nec(Romantic)” by Cathleen Chambless
July 20, 2016
Interested in reading queer, feminist, witchy poems? Miami native, Cathleen Chambless released her first published book of poetry, Nec(Romantic), published by Gorilla Press, to a packed Books & Books in Coral Gables on June 24th.
Nec(Romantic) is a dessert for queer women in their 20s-30s. Her debut book has haunting elements of Sylvia Plath’s line breaks, repetitive consonance, and macabre material found in the darkest places where our minds drift.
For example, the poem “Necromantic Glossary for the Practitioner,” has the reader chewing along with lines like, “invocation: He sucked the stars out of her eyes,/and chewed them/one/by/one/by one.”
Chambless explains that Miami is very much a part of her work with poems referencing Santeria, Churchill’s and hurricane Andrew. “Yes, there were really alligators in my grandma’s pool after hurricane Andrew.” There are even a few nods to the punk scene with poems titled after Bikini Kill songs, Rebel Girl and Jigsaw Youth.
Perhaps the most unique and equally moving part of Nec(Romantic) is the visual artwork paired with poems throughout the book. Images consisting of three components: illustrations, collages, and photographs accompany poems throughout the book. Favorite images of both Money and Chambless being the queer, feminist, tarot card inspired drawings.
Artist Erin Money met Chambless a few years ago through the writing project, Broadsides, that pairs artists with writers to create a multi-dimensional pieces. Money explains the process of creating artwork to pair with poetry:
“Cathleen felt I made her words come to life with my images, we enjoy similar motifs, styles, and colors which helps with our collaborative process. She wrote a poem about the loss of her friend. That year I was struggling with emotions left over from the death of my grandmother who I felt I was/am eternally connected to. The loss was devastating and creating the work helped me process during this time.”
Even if you’ve never experienced immense loss of a loved one or yourself, Nec(Romantic) cultivates an empathy showing the grey areas—the crux of all our dilemmas. Chambless explains, “There is a lot of real tragedy in the book. I wanted to write something that spoke to a woman, queer person…someone going through some very real shit. I want them to know they are not alone.”