For the Woman Alone by Ashley Iguanta
Ampersand Books, 2014; 50 pp
Reviewed by Annie Won
For the Woman Alone by Ashley Iguanta feels like such a luxury—hardbound, in color, largely handwritten, containing nearly letter-sized pages. I can't tell you how long it's been since I've picked up a book of these dimensions. I was last a child. We do not normally afford ourselves these luxuries in poetry. The generosity of eyes wide open. When was it that you last felt. "A prayer on knees, the distance between lover and clay, spun. I dream of / digging across the world often" ("It Begins (The Other End)").
The work is an invitation, open arms. Iguanta's work is many things. It is a scrapbook, it is intimate and hand-held, largely handwritten, collaged, thumbed-through pages, pressed flowers, beginning with the bare crossed legs of a woman.
It is woman and woman. It is women. The woman alone is two women is the single woman writing this to you. "Our bare bodies, together / and then we become the woman alone." As my yoga mentor would say, Iguanta's Venus element is strong — Venus of beauty, a flourish of the female form. Iguanta's lyric and sonic qualities are supreme. Writes Iguanta, "My mouth is a wish / and the space between your legs is a folded ocean" ("For the Woman Alone").
"Rose on table: a centerpiece / for the woman alone...she leans in, / she breathes the sweetness of petals, opening -- / of blueberry, of lion, of muscle, of pear." ("April (Birdsong)"). Despite the many textual references to multiplicity—a woman, and another woman, of relationship—Iguanta's photos are of an individual woman. Only one woman remains. Iguanta speaks of the disconnection of a private self—an interior that is rich and giving and yet, alone. She pieces overlapping written fragments, memories pasted so as to remember, lines on lineated paper writing through the lines. The paper is watermarked and stained, the ink rubbed off. One of the featured pictures includes a fissure of earth, not unlike a vulva, an opening. Iguanta writes, "Prayer... / the shh of air, the hush of morning."
I speak of her graphics because their dimensionality is critical to the texture of Iguanta's work. A maps is portrayed: NORTH / NORTH / NORTH / NORTH / NORTH -- the cardinal direction charted and re-charted in five different directions on the same map, how relationship redirects an individual's footing, where are we going, we are going, let's go. Iguanta writes, "When I grow complete, she'd throw me."
Destination is not the focus so much as the feeling. "A name is what you are, / and a name is a wall / between" ("Wintering"). Movement is more central than landing. "I dance / past you, / ...I am not Earth and you are in your home with the / lights on" ("Wintering").
How do we feel. How do we feel beyond our bodies, body on body, in a moment, in relationship. Are we in relationship? Is there a "we?" What remains? Can we allow ourselves to feel, in its true form? What do we have but our experiences, our senses, returning to them, allowing them to speak. What evolves. What then.