book Stirring the Mirror by Christine Boyka Kluge

reviewed by Kristina Marie Darling

Published in Issue No. 128 ~ January, 2008

In Christine Boyka Kluge’s Stirring the Mirror, (Fayetteville, NY:
Bitter Oleander Press, 2007), angels collide head-on

with black pearls, jars of bees, and a radio caught between stations,

setting the stage for an elegant, enigmatic collection of prose poetry

and flash fiction. Filled with narratives that challenge the

boundaries between forms and genres, many of the works in Stirring the

Mirror resemble contemporary fairy tales or fables, which often

juxtapose the everyday with the transcendental. Invoking imagery that

sizzles and shimmers throughout, Kluge’s new book addresses such

philosophical and spiritual questions as the nature of the soul, the

self, and the afterlife, radiating a “double helix of confetti-light”

all the while (27).

Particularly impressive in her use of celestial imagery when depicting

domestic scenes, Kluge’s poems and flash fictions often use the mundane

as a point of entry into the remarkable, inferring a larger meaning

from “a few smoked fish” and “dull charms on a necklace” (34). “The

God of Falling Objects” exemplifies this trend in Stirring the Mirror,

transitioning from the specific image of car keys falling from a pocket

to a vision of the universe as a whole, crumbling. For example, she

writes: “Falling tears and eggs, skyscrapers and mountains – they’re

all the same, plummeting as insignificantly as scrapings from burnt

toast. It’s useless to try to catch the crumbs of the crumbling

universe. It would be absurd to hold out her arms” (14). Conflating

the miniscule with an image of the world in its entirety, Kluge’s poem

suggests through its evocative juxtapositions that “falling tears and

eggs,” for most, are a universe unto themselves. Filled with poems

like this one, which renders lofty ideas suddenly tangible, Stirring

the Mirror resonates with readers on many levels, from the aesthetic to

the philosophical, presenting imagery that is at once concrete and

iridescent throughout.

Kluge’s imagery works well with the repeated themes and motifs in the

text, which often address the nature of the afterlife while invoking

metaphors that glitter and shine. By using comparisons to domestic

existence to explore what lies beyond it, Kluge’s book renders the

unfathomable suddenly and disconcertingly familiar. “Angel Eating Snow”

exemplifies this trend in Stirring the Mirror, depicting a man

stumbling upon the angel of his late wife eating snow on the deck. For

example, Christine Boyka Kluge writes: “She wears a long ivory

nightgown that pulls at the seams. How had she grown so plump eating only snow?

Something about her reminds him of his late wife…As he swallows, the

snow melts and trickles in freezing runnels down his throat. It tastes

like nothing, really, nothing at all” (48). Describing the next life

in terms of this one, Kluge suggests in this passage that the two

remain inseparable, conveying this message through such tangible

details as the angels’ plumpness and the “ivory nightgown that pulls at the seams” (48). Present throughout the collection, this pairing of the mundane with the lofty is used to address a variety of other philosophical concerns, ranging from the self to the psychological, even the supernatural, consistently dazzling the reader with her unmistakable narrative voice and stunning precision.

Overall, Stirring the Mirror is a finely crafted, thought-provoking

book. Highly recommended.

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Kristina Marie Darling, an English major at Washington University in St. Louis, received a nomination for a Pushcart Prize in 2006. Her chapbooks include: Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006), among others.