M. EARL SMITH Reviews
i eat cannibals by Gina Abelkop
(coin•im•press, Normal, Illinois, 2014)
As a writer, and a reviewer, I feel that it is my job to take on projects and reviews that, occasionally, stretch the bounds of what I would consider my comfort zone. And while I’ve always considered myself loyal to both feminism and the feminist cause, I would be dishonest if I claimed to be a voracious reader of feminist literature. While I am not a stranger to book reviews, reviewing i eat cannibals was, I hoped, a way to introduce myself to a world that I had given far too little of my time and attention to as a reader.
In a word: Whoa.
It’s not so much the content of i eat cannibals that makes it a shockingly good read. After all, these issues have been written about since even before the advent of the feminist movement. What makes i eat cannibals stand out is that Abelkop finds a way to straddle the line between harsh reality (“I give in to my bed/to my dog/licking blood from blue sheets”) and the abstract (“…The house/is growing rooms”) in a way that engrosses the reader from the first page to the last.
This collection of poems is both extremely personal and intensely introspective. While the book is a reflection on Ablekop’s own struggles as a woman, and on the struggles that the pressure of society puts on all women, it’s also a story, a bit of narrative hidden in poetic verse, if you will. We’re shown the physical body of a woman, and how it makes her controller of all in the universe…even as she has little to no control over it herself.
Make no mistake, though…this volume isn’t just a 93-page rant of personal introspection. Rather, the conflicts within are at war with external forces. Other women, nature, society, and destiny itself all play a role in the external struggle of inward manifestations. For example, in the poem an anti-inflammable, drowned, Abelkop leads off with “A straight novelist/and a lesbian novelist/write the same novel What/ do you know-…”. Through these conflicts, we are given a volume that is just solemn enough to get its point across, just quirky enough to leave us wondering about some of its meaning, and just fresh enough to make us chuckle at both the references and the way in which they are presented.
i eat cannibals is a poetry book, but it’s much more. It’s a story within a story, it’s a reflection on both the unique and our society, and it’s a finely polished look inside the very heart and soul of both a person and a movement. Abelkop strikes a balance between all of these competing elements, and, in doing so, does her work, it’s subject matter, and the images she wishes to convey justice. If you’re a fan of introspection, of feminism, or even of dance music and time travel, pick this up and give it a read.
You will not be disappointed.
M. Earl Smith is an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, with a dual focus in historical research and creative historical writing. His current research projects include the transcription of Francis Daniel Pastorius’s Beehive, with a focus on the representation of historical figures in commonplace books, as well as a piece of historical fiction surrounding the French Revolution. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org