This Week, I Read Kristin Garth: Flutter: A Southern Gothic Fever Dream

Image Credit: Biel Morro via Unsplash

In Kristin Garth’s book, Flutter: A Southern Gothic Fever Dream, Sylvia Dandridge is a sickly and imaginative heiress. She lives out on Longleaf Estate, where she spends most of her days alone, dreaming up other worlds that fill the isolated grandeur that surrounds her.

A bee demon, spectral mermaids, foundlings discovered in a lemon tree, and history are all woven together in Garth’s signature sonnet form. As promised by the title, the sequence is dream-like and richly imagined.

In the poem, “Rosemancy,” Sylvia Dandridge is suffering from scarlet fever when she is visited by Etienne, who is a bee demon, and appears in the guise of an attractive boy.

“Did he believe you were a bloom?” the speaker in the piece asks, referring to the red rash that that gives Scarlet Fever its name. “Not rashed/abashed, adolescent doomed, entombed up-/stairs.”

“Did he see buried/thorns, subcutaneous, to liberate/like horns–erupting, furious, bleeds/the season mortality recedes?” Sylvia is dying, and there’s a part of her that is hurting, and very much aware that she’s wasting away.

“Did/ he see himself in you, his powdered lip/a golden hue, amaretto, eyelids/ half-closed, pollen undertaste of tulip,/tuberose?” Later, we find out that Etienne has been conjured by Sylvia herself, even though he is said to be three hundred years old. It’s interesting that there’s a recognition between them, as not demon and victim, but creator and created. In a sense, Etienne is a part of Sylvia.

This is Kristen Garth at her best. These are well-crafted poems by a master poet. Sonnets and footnotes are combined to create a novella and poetry collection that is absolutely stunning. Flutter is available through Twist It Press.

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