Review by Kristina Marie Darling

by Brandi Homan



Dancing Girl Press
Chapbook, $5.00

In Brandi Homan's Two Kinds of Arson, the traditional love lyric collides head on with prom kings, red dresses, and plagues of locusts, setting the stage for witty, hip collection of poetry. Often taking the form of couplets and quatrains, Homan's poems are thoroughly modern in their subversive use of feminine imagery like valentines, jewelry, and flowers, all of which the poems demand rather than wait for. By presenting first dates and crushes in an edgy way, at times juxtaposed with gasoline fumes and tattoos, Homan gives the speakers of these love poems not only agency but sassiness, rounding out an engaging and enjoyable selection of poems.
The stylistic devices that Homan uses often interact with her delightfully brazen subject matter in interesting ways. Employing a jocular tone as well as unusual diction and images, these formal aspects of Two Kinds of Arson create incongruities that become the source of both humor and irony. For example, Homan writes in her poem Echolocation, which narrates the speaker's sending out signals for the perfect man: "I'll soak his scars/ in coconut milk, heal him/ with heliotrope. I'll grow/ sanguinaria in my navel,/ throw clover from the roof" (21). Stated after the speaker expounds on the qualifications for a man who will respond to this echolocation, these lines parody lists of this type through their wonderfully bizarre imagery and boisterous tone. The man described being just as impossible as being healed "with heliotrope" and throwing "clover from the roof," the poem's tone hints at the speaker's obliviousness to this impossibility as she keeps "writing love songs/ that vanish in thin air" (22). Two Kinds of Arson is full of poems like this, which sizzle and shimmer while telling off crushes and daring young girls to take up arms against dependence.
These stylistic elements work well with the repeated themes and motifs in the text, which often evoke both femininity and aggression, casting a dark light on the valentines and first dates of the chapbook. Homan writes in her poem Cohabitation, for example: "How smoothly we slip/ through this field of poppies/ where plagues go to die,/ crawling on elbows/ through the long, crisp stems" (9). Juxtaposing the frivolousness of flowers and poppies with the gravity of biblical plagues, Cohabitation is one of many poems in the book that conflate the girly with the destructive, bringing conventional definitions of femininity and womanhood into question. Often highlighted and complicated by the stylistic devices of the book, these themes form a wonderfully complex vision of love that pervades the collection.
Overall, Two Kinds of Arson is a daring, intelligent read. Anyone who enjoys feminist poetry that is still fun and lyrical throughout will enjoy Brandi Homan's new chapbook.



Kristina Marie Darling is an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. She is the author of four chapbooks, which include Fevers and Clocks (March Street Press, 2006) and The Traffic in Women (Dancing Girl Press, 2006). A Pushcart Prize nominee in 2006, her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in many publications, which include The Mid-America Poetry Review, PIF Magazine, Janus Head, The Midwest Book Review, The Arabesques Review, and others. Recent awards include residencies at the Writers Colony at Dairy Hollow and the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts.


Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.