It would be hard to ignore that both Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess are publishing powerhouses; they have (at last count) thirty books between them.
Kristina’s work has been called “wondrous, indulgent, and lush,” and of Carol Guess, “[her] work approaches the edge of territory dark and unmanageable...” It is with these two lyric forces that “X Marks the Dress: A Registry” is wrought, a book over-ripe with discontent and still, somehow, bewitching.
The book begins littered with wilted corsages, fallen apples, torn gloves...trademark images of Darling, who favors the authority of objects and what they can come to symbolize—which could easily become heavy-handed in a collection structured around a wedding registry, literally a list of objects for a new coupled life, yet Darling and Guess deftly manage to keep the material symbols in the opening sequence of prose poems second to voice.
The speaker(s) of these poems set this collection apart. They do not seem to retain gender or sexual preference and it isn’t long until the characters—a husband, his wife, and his mistress—begin to take shape, all complicated by the subtle revelation that the husband is transgendered.
Like the wedding conventions this collection aims to fragment, so do these voices unsettle and fracture and, as the first poem ends admitting, “I pull you inside out.”
Followed then by an appendix of footnotes to a missing text, a glossary of wedding terms, an index to absent illustrations, a dictionary of nuptial slang, and lastly a section of erasures, this book is crowded with forms and symbols and the spoils of tradition. But above all this book is crowded with performances—of gender and identity, of ritual and convention, of love and loss. Darling and Guess remind again and again, there is duality to these productions, a displeasure to accompany even the most well-deserved satisfactions. “...a bride must choose not only between the two men, but between herself and others. And now the most fragile corsage tethered to my wrist.”