In Guidebooks for the Dead, Cynthia Cruz returns to a familiar literary landscape in which a cast of extraordinary women struggle to create amidst violence, addiction, and poverty. For Marguerite Duras, evoked here in a collage of poems, the process of renaming herself is a “Quiet death,” a renewal she envisions as vital to her evolution. In “Duras (The Flock),” she is “high priestess” to an imagined assemblage of women writers for whom the word is sustenance and weapon, “tiny pills or bullets, each one packed with memory, packed with a multitude of meaning.” Joining them is the book’s speaker, an “I” who steps forward to declare her rightful place among “these ladies with smeared lipstick and torn hosiery . . . this parade of wrong voices.” Guidebooks for the Dead is both homage to these women and a manifesto for how to survive in a world that seeks to silence those who resist.
Guidebooks for the Dead
And the enchantment
Of children’s hospitals.
Somewhere there is a god,
Someone must be in charge.
What is the word, again,
…an exquisite fever dream of drugs, anorexia and unwanted sex (in both senses of the word) populated by young women and men…who have lost all sense of where the edge is…
…Over and over, Cruz generates a saturating atmosphere that refuses to give in to the urge to redeem art, to instrumentalize it, to turn it into something that improves us….
From “30 Poets You Should Be Reading” list: The reader must stumble in the fog of Cruz’s mischievous hallucinations. It’s a pleasure.