Review: “Turning Inside Out” by Sandra Kolankiewicz

Turning Inside Out

Things are indeed turned inside out, bringing secrets tantalisingly to the surface, in the latest poetry chapbook by Sandra Kolankiewicz. Highlighting secrets does not necessarily mean revealing them, however and time and time again the secrets Kolankiewicz briefly flaunts remain unknown, despite their visibility.

To begin with, in the first of the nineteen poems in this collection, “The New Me”, we are shown snatches of the old ‘me’ the poet intends to jettison in order to create the new one, though the reasons for the planned transformation are never totally clear. Then there is the surprisingly moving “Keeping Pigeons”, where the poet lays bare the secrets of pigeon keeping while asking the question,

“If you knew about having to keep the loft,
how they need perches, baths, enriched feed,
fresh water twice a day or else they weaken,
would you ever get started?”

The secrets may now be on display in loving detail, but the basic, initial question remains unanswered except by implication and the possibly telling last phrase of the poem, “love of the loft.”

The poem “Yva” exposes the alleged secrets of an anonymous literary pairing; telling tales of what went on in their garden:

“which everyone
also whispered about,
though most had never seen it.”

The poem suggests some of the secrets of their private writing papers, the serial seduction of Yva and the hidden lushness of the garden itself with its “fleshy blooms”. Yet despite a plenitude of rich detail, the revelations only serve to raise more unanswered questions, with the provocative last line, “She had been the reason for the gun”, leaving the reader suddenly wondering what gun, what happened?

In “John 8, 3-11” the unanswered question is,

“What was Jesus writing in the dirt
in the story of the adulterous woman?”

and despite a poem full of possibilities we never get to find out.

The chapbook concludes with the title poem “Turning Inside Out”, a book-end companion to “The New Me”. In the first poem the poet is reinventing herself by casting aside elements of the old ‘her’, In the final poem she is changing by turning herself inside out, replacing the seen with the previously unseen,

“glistening into the dry air,
a steaming colander of
hot, red organs,

pushed with their membranes
from one universe
into another.”

By the end of the poem the transformation is complete,

“The blackness is anaerobic now.
Air would kill me.”

but we are still left guessing at the reason for the transformation; it remains another unknown.
The poems in Turning Inside Out are searching, atmospheric, at times disquieting and always riveting. This is a book that deserves to be known and not kept a secret as seems to be the fate of many poetry collections.

Turning Inside Out is available from Black Lawrence Press and Amazon.

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J.S. Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in a diversity of print and online magazines in Britain, Canada and the States. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/JSWatts.