Image credit: Larm Rmah
“Let me live behind a reclaimed mask set with jewels/long-ago dropped from bracelets, rings – abandoned/settings gather dust like empty coffins,” the speaker says in Kate Garrett’s poetry collection, A View from the Phantasmagoria.
A View from the Phantasmagoria can be read on two levels–on one, it’s a collection of supernatural fantasy poems. On another level, it’s about the poet’s real life decades-long struggle with PMDD. The text works on both levels equally. I enjoyed the supernatural elements, and the elements surrounding emotional struggles were relatable.
“My disguise carries a kind of glamour, a glow/not my own, on loan from ten burlesque skeletons/rattling their way across a century’s stage.” Here, the poet sets up the stage, literally and figuratively. She’s conjuring a Dark Romantic fantasy realm, one where there’s magic and beauty. The speaker in the piece is hiding her pain. A lot of times, when we are struggling emotionally, there’s often pressure to pretend that we’re fine, when we’re not.
“And in my ear/the silky-skinned phantoms sing through bubbling laughter,/following gemstones and misplaced feathers to where/I stand in their reflections –” the speaker says. She’s hiding in a room full of supernatural beings. When I read this, I pictured a room at Versailles, except filled with ghosts and skeletons.
“it’s ok to show your face,/don’t turn to borrowed beauty,” the phantoms tell the speaker in a particularly powerful moment. These almost-sinister phantoms recognize something inside of her and they embrace her for it.
“They unveil who I am/beneath the mask, digging further still, reaching reruns/
of the horror-show I hide to keep you safe,” the speaker says. Here, the mask is removed and the speaker reveals what she’s been hiding. This last line is so powerful–“reaching reruns of the horror-show I hide to keep you safe.” A lot of times, when someone is dealing with disorders which effect the psyche, there’s a feeling of wanting to protect those closest to you from your own emotions. Those closest to us are the ones who suffer, as well.
Even readers who don’t have PMDD can still connect to it. It’s applicable for anyone who has ever had a physical disorder that affects one’s emotions, which is a definite strength of the book. Garrett’s poetry is gorgeous and spell-binding. It begs the question–when your body betrays you, what do you have left? What do you do? This is a book that is about being seen. I highly recommend A View from the Phantasmagoria.