The Tulip-Flame by Chloe Honum
Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2014; 56 pp
Reviewed by Sebastian H. Paramo
From page one, there's a delicateness woven through Honum's first collection, The Tulip-Flame. It seems fitting then to find the recurring image of the graceful dancer occupying these pages because each poem feels a type of performance. Yet, it's not just grace that Honum puts on the page; there is a daring in the story-telling here. In “Evening News,” Honum writes. “Tonight, it crosses my mind/ how gone you are, and stars/ if stars say anything, say Otherwise.” This collection left me startled with its agile images and its ability to find glimmers in the darkness. In a poem like “Bay” where we begin with the word “LOVE” in bold letters, the passion of longing expressed here seems unfiltered and reckless: “I want to hear you say/ as you push into my flesh, deepen my hear, like pink light/ above the ocean turning red.”
In her poem “Ballerina, Released,” Honum writes “On stage each night I shape a single story.” And indeed, in each poem, she shapes the outline of something larger than any individual poem. Every poem feels like an important thread to follow even if its destination is the shadowy rear of the stage.
Despite the darkness, the speaker in these poems guides us to look elsewhere—beyond the stars, the birds, and the dance—for refuge. By the time we reach the section “Dusk,” we've approached a sort of reconciliation with death in the “astounding flame.” I can't stop thinking about this collection's skill, its taut lines that are at once muscular and delicate.