Short-shot Review

Allison Benis White: Small Porcelain Head

(Four Way Books, 2013)

Benis’ second book, selected by Claudia Rankine for Four Way Book’s Levis Prize, works to exfoliate real grief and anger through a literary ventriloquism of sorts: the book’s prose poems preoccupy themselves with dolls, those wonderful, horrifying simulacrums, and she stands against tidal waves of human pain with the dignity and stoicism one might see in the most well formed ceramic face, though this also is about what is frozen, what freezes us numb: “For the easily broken heads of bisque or / china, tin heads, made separately, cut, and / stamped from sheet metal, welded together, / then painted or enameled” are all “shattered” and their metal replacements are “not enough.” It never is, and the yearning for what has been lost is the dark side of desire under these poems, the need to feel and the need to not feel, the twin driving forces in a book that might just make you weep.

-Laura McCullough