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Chapbook Review: Baby-Doll Under Ice by Katie Jean Shinkle

Katie Jean Shinkle Baby-Doll Under Ice Hyacinth Girl, 2014 Paperback, $6.00

In Katie Jean Shinkle’s brief and beautiful Baby-Doll Under Ice, address to the beloved is equal parts lyric and fable.

Shinkle’s poems navigate a lyrical and often erotic tension between submergence and emergence of the self and the other. Throughout the poems, the speaker/s are not constant in their pronouns and antecedents, pushing the reader to consider unified identity and embodiment. We encounter I, you, she, we, the eponymous beloved Baby-Doll, and a figure called Charlotte, whose organs are dangerous, who might be a shadow of the speaker or the beloved.

While the title and many of the individual poems bear out the conceit of submergence, the poems also dance with the thrill of the reveal, with nakedness and vulnerability. One example of this erotic tension is the poem Baby Doll’s Cry for Help, in which the speaker pleads with the beloved to “come sit next to me:”

no closer still, on my thighs you are on my chest on my face o Baby-Doll you are on my hips we are no please

come closer until you are invisible until you shadow your shadow your watery shadow until this shadow

Like a fable, in these poems the physical is metaphysical. The body is the site of viscera; the body is the site of metaphor. Organs are fruit, are weapons, and also are just organs. In these lines from “Baby-Doll’s First Examination,” we see the layered truths of the body:

What is right here, fingers beneath

bust line. Here is where we disintegrate,

here is where we burst.

Shinkle uses sonic resonance and recurring image to draw the reader through the whole sequence. These are poems to enjoy in immediate material pleasure, and to unfold over multiple readings in moments of concealment and disclosure.

Baby-Doll Under Ice is available from Hyacinth Girl Press. Look for Katie Jean Shinkle’s upcoming novel Our Prayers After the Fire, available soon from Blue Square Press!


Kathy Goodkin's work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Redivider, RHINO, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from George Mason University, where she served as editor of Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art. Kathy lives in Denver, where she co-teaches poetry workshops in a women’s correctional facility.

#Reviews #Poetry

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