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Book Review :: Interior Femme by Stephanie Berger

Interior Femme poetry by Stephanie Berger published by University of Nevada Press book cover image

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

Among the first four poems of Stephanie Berger’s Interior Femme, the 2020 Betsy Joiner Flanagan Poetry Prize winner, there’s a “Foreword,” a “Prelude,” and a “Preface,” as if there is an anxiety about beginning or that beginning takes time: “she opened up gradually to the possibility of beauty and a city.” The bicoastal cities of San Diego and New York are among the urban settings for these poems as they trace archetypes of the feminine and the matriarchy of family, society, and art—“a lineage // of pain”—focusing primarily on “two subjects: death / & domesticity” while vying for “survival / of the beautiful.” Survival from whom or what might dominate is a central pursuit of these poems. What has power and influence: memories—“a sadness took / my mother to the movies one day / & never brought her back.” The poems puzzle over the implications of the first woman in our lives and the primal feminine being lost to violence. Memories, based in gender dominance and sexual degradation, are “the mercurial knee-jerk / of the patriarchy.” The poet beseeches: “strip me / from what abyss of memory I dragged.” Ultimately, Berger’s is a poetry of ascent; Persephone emerges and “imagination dominates.” In these poems, imagination has the power to counter and save; even “a pit at the bottom // of the kitchen sink, available / for discovery.” Dear reader, in Interior Femme, Stephanie Berger is “a real woman [and poet] / with the scars to prove it,” who understands it is “important to remember / there are windows in the water.” Dear reader, Interior Femme is a window.

Interior Femme, Stephanie Berger. University of Nevada Press, January 2022.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear. More at https://jamimacarty.com/

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