paper • 72 pages • 15.95
Within the world of Wunderkammer, or “cabinet of curiosities,” Cynthia Cruz archives the ruinous, the sparkling, the traumatic, and the decadent. These poems, through sensuous impressions, mimic what it’s like to wake from a dream only to realize you are still inside the dream. We encounter gluttony pinned against starvation—“ceiling high cream cakes, / I ran twelve miles in my ballet leotard” and the glamorous mixed with the grotesque —“I follow a sequin / Thread of dead things.” Through “brutal music,” Wunderkammer grips at the edges of memory and chaos; these poems have “found the kill / And entered it.”
“Self Portrait in Fox Furs, with Magic,” from Wunderkammer:
Where I am the weather is
Spectacular damage, and hustle.
And inside my tiny Berlin,
I am packed, already, in a casket
To be returned in a pearl-
With no music. Beneath the blood
And rattle, I saw the moon
Float over a field
Of white horses, a blind king
Whispering in Old German.
They’ll hook the gloomed world
Back into me, its menageries
And zoos of wounds, its museums
Of memory, and trauma. In the city
Of palaces, I lived
Inside a doll house
Mansion, Chateau Feral,
Deep inside the primordial forest.
I was born
On its warm floor
Inside the murk of the underworld,
And filled, at birth, with a green ocean of terror.
“Welcome to Wunderkammer, a miracle chamber where ‘the weather is / Spectacular damage, and hustle.” Writing from “inside my tiny Berlin,” in a series of self-portraits and nebenwelts, or next worlds, Cruz invites us into a underworld of locked wards, psychotropic drugs, bruise and ballet, a true Velvet Underground of the psyche. As always, her linguistic palette is glittering and sharp, her vision hallucinogenic and unflinching. ‘Self Portrait in Fox Furs, with Magic’ indeed.” —Dana Levin
“I’m anguished—and utterly exhilarated—by this book. Its electrifying reckoning with whole worlds of trauma has this poet’s powers ratcheted up to 11, but the speakers aren’t blown out: it’s not volume that’s turned up high but emotion, articulation, and the bright amazing line connecting the two. Cruz is astonishing. This book is not merely beautiful or frightening (though it is both to extremes) but very deeply weird, weird by necessity to find the truth of intense suffering, and extraordinarily precise. The poet’s clarity doesn’t narrow or exclude; it deepens, dives. …Cruz exposes that glorious hell that is having a history, having a body, remembering everything and trying to make something good of it. She makes something brilliant of it: fearless close-to-the-bone truthtelling and a triumphant work of art.” —Brenda Shaughnessy
“Cynthia Cruz’s daring new book is not just a cabinet of wonders but a carefully curated underworld of thought, memory, and dream. These dark and commanding poems touch the crisis that lies at the very edge of perception. Their crystalline, Baudelairean vision will haunt, trouble, and astonish you.” —Elizabeth Willis
“…a collection that’s both mordantly funny and delightfully hopeless, as Cruz’s imagination roams between several nebenwelts (side-worlds) while indulging itself in fineries and miseries galore.” Read the full review.
“The power of Wunderkammer lies in the sheer gorgeousness of language combined with leaps of imagination and fearless psychic revelation. Cruz chooses beautiful sounds for terrible things, layering assonance in the book’s opening poem, for example— ‘Was found drowned in a cream velvet/Mini gown…’— and playfully rhyming ‘guillotine’ with ‘dream’ and ‘coconut cream’ in the final Nebenwelt. Her poems have a wry sense of humor that tempers the traumas they reveal.” Read the full review.
“Cynthia Cruz executes a formal innovation on a scale not seen since Pound and Williams attempted to get the 20th century into a poem. She offers an expanded conception of the poem as a Neo-Expressionist art object. The poems in Cynthia Cruz’s Wunderkammer show her to be a cosmopolitan force in the 21st century art of American poetry.” Read the full review.
“I find Cruz’s poetry spellbinding because it permits darkness to exist with nuance, to be both debilitating and sacred. This darkness—which seems to be inescapable given the colossal interiority of these poems—permeates everything, and yet is not shown to be necessarily sinister. Nor does Cruz glorify depression, drug abuse, anorexia, or any of the other conditions that give rise to the half-submerged consciousness that marks so much of her work.” Read the full review.
“The meanings of entire worlds and lives are broken down into exquisite musical lines and repeated mentions of white horses, pulses, snow, sequins, cakes, creams, diamonds, emeralds, and palanquins. Existence and the memories of existence are told in the ’embellishing, collecting, then/deconstructing’ of lives and objects. Cruz takes our world and all possible worlds and collects, embellishes, and displays them as in a Wunderkammer, to be explored by the living and animated by the ‘sweet bloody hum of the impossible animal,’ until we reach a nebenwelt, an afterlife, or just some velvet morning.” Read the full review.
“If the speakers are dragged into this ‘next world’ or ‘Neberwelt,’ then so, too, is the reader, who finds himself standing amidst Cruz’s glorious piles of trash and relics, perhaps even struggling with the question of what to do with them all. Appreciation for this collection hinges on the reader’s ability to widen the lens, to play along with the larger game of the wunderkammer itself, the beautiful junkyard into which we have been invited.” Read the full review.
“Just as Renaissance cabinets of curiosity were more than simple warehouses for artifacts, Wunderkammer exists as more than a collection of poems — this book is a rarity, an art object, an installation piece drawn from the mind of Cynthia Cruz, who renders her haunting other-world through its labyrinths and beyond, fearlessly.” Read the full review.
[…] latest poetry collection is Wunderkammer. What was the inspiration for this book? The cover features Lucia Joyce, the daughter of James […]
[…] Cruz: In terms of the book as a whole, I rarely have a concept before I begin. Except for Wunderkammer, maybe. But usually the books are a collection of poems that took place over a period of time. In […]