Anne with an E by April Michelle Bratten
$7 / order from Dancing Girl Press / review by Donna-Marie Riley
Here’s the problem: the more I like something, the less I feel able to articulate what it has done to me, what the effect was and why and wow and wonder. There is something deeply rich about this collection, something dense and rippling and luxuriant.
Anne with an E is a collection based on L.M Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables and its subsequent sequels. I have never read Anne of Green Gables, don’t know even the general plot of it, couldn’t tell you a single one of its characters beyond Anne for whom it’s named and yet, despite all of that, despite my stunning lack of context, April Michelle Bratten’s Anne with an E took me by the wrists and held me flush against the wall, panting. That is to say: this collection unapologetically seduced me. There is a girlishness to these poems, yes, a young implacably sweet voice, and yet it is constantly interjected by something deeply erotic and half perverse. Something straining against the misjudgements that have been made about it. Something desperate to prove it’s not quite as innocent as it has been mistaken for.
Bratten is a poet who seems to know poetry, seems to have studied it before beginning to speak it. The language is hypnotic, rolls like the hips of a woman who knows her own power. Shows up to the party showing just enough leg and meets the eyes of anyone looking.
I am thrilled by these poems, so much so that anything I say on them doesn’t match up to the feeling they instil in me. I sing the praises of Bratten and Anne alike, and I thank them both for having caught me so off guard. Do not miss out on this. Let it stir your blood.
A few of my favourite quotes include:
…then I know he loves me, no-words-deeply.
I could tell you about leaving, about sinning,
about swinging little boys from my hip, or what happens
when a man does not receive his afternoon sandwich
in a timely manner, what happens to his penis after he is taken
to drink, but I will not. I cannot complain. I have a home
I can return to.
For you, I only write
a cluster of birds, a crushed blossom in echoes to home,
and I fear how much I long to hear them say, welcome back,
“You wouldn’t know it by simply looking,
but her head is a museum. It houses many beautiful aches.”
“Then you were shadow, never-played violin, empty kitchen, you flimsy
woman squeezed into the body of an elegant child.”
“I do not feel sexy this week. The clock is tired, its endless wandering. Are you abhorrent? Are you worse than death? I can afford to show a little leg. I fold my dress up above my knees. I speak less these days, I told you, I can afford to show a little leg.”
April Michelle Bratten’s latest book is the Anne of Green Gables inspired chapbook, Anne with an E (dancing girl press 2015). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Southeast Review, Zone 3, Gargoyle, decomP, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Thrush Poetry Journal, among others. She is the editor-in-chief of Up the Staircase Quarterly, and a contributing editor at Words Dance Publishing where she writes the article “Three to Read.” She currently lives in Minot, North Dakota.
Donna-Marie Riley currently resides in the South West of England. She is author of the poetry collection Love and Other Small Wars, published by Words Dance, and also featured in Between Sentiment and Sensation: Vol I, published by Red Paint Hill. She romanticizes cold coffee and bitten nails and she likes her poetry shaken, not stirred.