Book Review for Letters We're Allowed:

Subterranean Blue Poetry

Volume VII Issue IV


Byline: Subterranean Blue Poetry

Title of Book: Letters We're Allowed

Author: Jennifer Stella

Publisher: above/ground press

Date of Publication: 2019

Pages: 40

"Navy near-black cut in with lemon, fruity bright lime green.
I roam around around around around acidic yellows, globe
oranges burning . . ."
- from Lure, 1963 by Denise Riley

Letters We're Allowed is a brilliant dark surrealist haunting in a series of "love" letters from the New Age Renaissance Republic of Poetry by Jennifer Stella and above/ground press. Jennifer Stella is a Poet, writer and doctor who lives in San Francisco and works with the Peace Corps and Doctors without Borders. She has served in Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo. She also holds an MFA in poetry from studying at Brooklyn College. Her prose and poetry is published internationally and she has been featured in the poetry journals Pharos, Eleven Eleven, the Dusie Blog, Calyx, Tupelo Quarterly and Der Grief amongst others.

Letters We're Allowed is a series of short "love" letters in poetic narrative between Sivan and Jenny. The asides in sign on and sign off cues are creative and enigmatic and sometimes strike as funny in an absurdist presentation.

"Dear Jenny . . . Who Is Not a Bat, . . . Love, Sivan Who Rhymes with Reams"

"Dear Sivan . . . Who Has Arrived at Terminal 4, . . . Love, Jenny Who Moves Martians, not Mountains"

"Dear Jenny . . . Who Is Thingly . . . Love, Sivan Who Values Teleportation Over Time Travel"

They talk around each other at tangents in symbols and dark fantasia, it is a story of constraints of time and distance and emotion, as if they are warriors of love, perhaps too hurt and tired to connect on any serious note, perhaps a reflection of the overconstructed violence in love/war N.A.

The images include oranges and lemons in Cameroon that are green and lime-like, flowers on tables, cut-out pictures of giraffes/muskrats, being at church, the ocean, birds, vampires, sexual assault, medical conditions and patients, writing poetry . . . all inside a fantastical surrealist banter. The letters never seem to connect fully on any of the subjects that are presented or written about. She writes to him more than 3 or 4 times about being sexually assaulted which he never addresses. She seems to be looking for validation, some sort of connection which is never really received, in communication terms it is as if they might as well be sending letters to dead letter post at the post office, yet, that the letters were written at all is an exciting event. This lack of connection may also address how some male friends/lovers are uncomfortable with addressing the violation issues of their female friends/lovers. The "If I don't talk about it doesn't exist" and then "I don't have to be afraid for my girlfriend/lover" or "I don't have to recognize my behaviour as someone who sexually assaults as someone who cannot commit to a longterm intimate relationship". It is not really constructive and yet, an illumination in poetry. In fact he acknowledges his foibles in the first returned letter, writing

"I am a vampire.

I am a vampire.

I am a vampire.

This references a song. Blood magic requires blood sacrifice. Just remember that. As Spicer, to Lorca, "I would like to make poems out of real objects. The lemon to be a lemon that the reader can cut and squeeze . . ."

That the series of "love" letters continues on any level is mysterious and a tribute to the longing for the universal essential love. Letters We're Allowed is a creative masterpiece, a fantastical artefact of culture, a photograph of the emerging New Society in the New Age. A brilliant write by Jennifer Stella.

Available @ above/ground press.

Subterranean Blue Poetry

© 2019