Review of Matrimonial Cake
Pamela Clarke Vandall’s new collection, Matrimonial Cake is a ravening of the commonplace in the relationship between men and women. Right way, in the title piece, “Matrimonial Cake”, the reader is primed for what to expect throughout. “Neither of us remembers how it tastes/but we both agree there were many dates/and after that it crumbled apart in our hands.”
With each poem, the sacred has a touch of profanity, the profane something spiritual. In “Idol” the Virgin Mary is bored and tired of being idolized. Mary fantasizes about hanging out in a bar, “She wants to tremble like wild/wisteria, throw olives into a parched wind/and no longer appear as the nun getting none.” But then Ms. Vandall will transform the earthy “I put your hand/to my crotch/and held it there...” into something sublime in “A Bird in the Hand”. “Forgive me. I did not mean/to take you away./I thought your hand/on my crotch/might bring you back/I wanted/to be a sparrow/in your hand/to unfold wings/and beat against you.”
There is no shrinking away or mincing about in these poems. The reader will marvel at the bravery and deftness with which the poet handles a really difficult subject such as abortion, as she does in “Things I Keep”. In this piece, the abortion is both literal and symbolic of any creative effort that dies aborning. “Abortions fall from my head, ugly/undeveloped children without legs/…I’m too wrapped up in the stain, the infancy/of things like the tattered fig leaf curling up/at the fringe of something dark and fertile.”
This collection is full of primal poems in which the man is the hunter/gatherer, and the woman, she who guts the fish and plucks the geese for dinner. There are lots of guns and knives and dark erotic thoughts of how to use them. In “Stewing” the narrator is carving up raw meat for a stew with a large sharp knife. “She likes the way it feels/in her hand, comfortable/cool, it refuses to mince words.//She squeezes the handle/in a rhythmic motion./It relaxes her, helps her/unwind, sort of the same way/firing his gun does.”
Altogether, this is a superb collection of poetry. It is thematic without being redundant, entertaining without being frivolous, edifying without being turgid. Those who love poetry will love Pamela Clarke Vandall’s voice and craft. For those only recently introduced to poetry, Matrimonial Cake will surely be a satisfying meal.
Phillip Larrea is the author of Our Patch (Writing Knights Press), and We the People (Cold River Press).
Blurbs from Matrimonial Cake
Pamela’s poetry is unflinching, raw, and honest. She is everything a poet should be. Pamela will shock you, entertain you, smash you to the floor then lift you to the sky with her earthy passion. She is a true artist of beauty and grit. She paints sensual, wild, vivid pictures in bold strokes of untamed words in a series of breathtaking poetic swings. From flowers to fruit, love to hate, socks to sex and back again.'
Peadar O'Donoghue is founder and Co-Editor of The Poetry Bus Magazine, his first collection of poetry 'Jewel' (Salmon Poetry) 'The Death of Poetry' (Salmon Poetry) is due early 2015
Matrimonial Cake by P.C. Vandall contains the stories of lovers emptying themselves. It’s a landscape of incurable desire with its rage and exhaustion. Here love ferments, bleeds, and eats while nature witnesses the carnivorous appetite like an elder. There might be peace except for the presence of some threat, like a gun, and even when violence is not in the room it lurks behind the door.
The narrator shifts from seductress to butcher in the space of a few lines, yet still remains sensitive to the other’s gaze. Her neighbour “twice (her) age, income and size” comes for tea and spite. Even laundry with its erotic proclivities is menacing in the washing machine.
The voice and eyes of an innocent child permeates the pages, determined to gain back the control that was taken before she could utter the word. Beyond the pep talk for courage you know she has conquered it, nailed it within the interplay of images.
Everything, no matter whether it be animal, plant, curtain or cutlery, has something to say in the drama. This is a book worth reading. More than once.
Janet Vickers, publisher at Lipstick Press
author, Impermanence, Arcana, and You Were There