Just reading the author note that precedes Danielle Perry’s Phases (Sad Spell Press), her first chapbook, is enough to spark your enthusiasm over what’s to come. She’s a tarot reader who is “generally amping up her witchiness,” and who couldn’t use more of that in the world? Of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less of a Spellbook from the publishing arm of Witch Craft Magazine.
If you’re looking for magic with words, this is where you want to look.
Perry calls her collection a “too-long exhale” on her website, but I would argue it’s equal parts inhale and exhale – a nourishing combination.
In her poems, we find curiosity, reflection, transformation, growth, and a willingness to explore. We find fear, but we also find bravery in the author’s vulnerability.
In “Rise,” the opening poem, Perry provides a glimpse of a character coming to terms with their identity, and being honest about their feelings of seclusion:
I am a fairy child. / What does this mean?
That I am special / though special
is almost always spelled different
and that usually means alone.
From here, we see the character searching, intent on calling forth a “strange woman” encountered in the woods after a party. The woman’s skin reflects light, she shines “silver in the moonlight,” and not only does she embody beauty, but protection from suffering or pain – a safe haven. In my own reading of the poems I envisioned this woman as a representation of the narrator’s future self or spirit, but the author creates space for many interpretations. How you read her work may all come down to whatever personal beliefs you bring to the table.
Whether you believe in the power of ritual or not, it’s a grounding part of Perry’s collection as a whole. We find the narrator making altars all over her apartment in an effort to summon the woman back into her life. Drugs and “herbs said to help with lucid dreaming” become part of the ritual, as the narrator becomes more and more desperate for the reappearance of this woman who makes her feel less alone. “I clung to the rituals, addicted / to the sense of power, to the feeling / that I was drawing her closer to me,” Perry writes in “First Quarter.”
The moon phases are, naturally, the inspiration for poem titles, from “Full” to “New” to “Crescent” and “Gibbous.” Throughout the poems we find references to the moon and its impact on the narrator’s environment, such as the way it “creates shadows of the trees” in the woods, or how it “was just a shard of light in the sky / and I was waiting / for what would cut next.” In much the same way, apples are a consistent image – there is something sinister and enchanting about this, perhaps in its proximity to fairy tales. In this case, however, the apples are pink, and though they’re not poisoned, they appear to signal change, and typically the arrival of the strange woman.
While you may not be a lover of tarot, astrology and rituals involving altars, this little poetry collection is a whimsical journey that nevertheless speaks to fairly widespread feelings of isolation, desperation, and yearning to overcome past wounds. The author lets readers in, showing them the inner thoughts and personal rituals of a narrator so eager to grow and move forward and leave the past behind. Phases is not just a meditation on witchy rituals and their power; it’s a look inside a personal quest to discover one’s true self.
In the final lines of “Gibbous,” the closing poem, the narrator finds what she so desperately had been seeking, and in this, there is a sense of acceptance, and calm:
I looked up and she was there, naked,
a hungry glint in her eyes. Thank you,
she said, and held out her hand.
I did not hesitate.
(Sad Spell Press, Poetry, Paperback, Nov. 2015)
LESLEY LEROUX is a writer, editor and artist from Canada’s capital (originally the little island of Newfoundland). She graduated with a degree in journalism from Carleton University. Her fiction, nonfiction and photography have been published both in print and online, and she has occasionally dabbled in radio and television. She is a feminist, bibliophile and yogi who can be found tweeting about any of the above @LesleyLeRoux.