Review by Sherry Chandler (email)
by Christine Stewart-Nuñez

Finishing Line Press
PO Box 1626
Georgetown, Kentucky 40324
ISBN 1-59924-100-5
25 pp. $12.00
www.finishinglinepress .com

Ironies abound in Christine Stewart-Nuñez's Unbound & Branded, a chapbook of ekphrastic formal poems considering Kate Moss as an icon of the female form. Based on a 40-page portfolio of Moss portraits in W magazine in 2003, the collection is as filled with parodies, sly winks, and in-jokes as are the paintings and photographs from which they are written.
Take, for example, the sonnet written for the Lamsweerde-Matadin photograph of Moss as a bride. A sonnet, that most traditional form for love poems, what could be more appropriate? And yet the bride is naked, wearing only a veil and a strategically placed bouquet. A joke. Similarly, Stewart-Nuñez's sonnet "Unbrided" is all slant rhymes and broken feet, until at the turn, delayed until line 9, rhyme and regular meter seem as abandoned as Kate Moss's bridal gown:

This is advice for twenty-first century brides
she says. Ditch the dress of chastity, the ring's
insurance policy, groom and promise to obey.
Who can stand it? The majority don't love
forever. You can't wear the dress again anyway.  (p. 16)

"Bad Girl" is a parody of Molly Peacock's "Good Girl," "Who's Borrowing?" a parody of the villanelle (invented by Billy Collins), "Geometry of Moss" an invented form based on the Pythagorean triplet.
Ekphrastic poetry finds its strength and its weakness in its tie to the inspiring artwork. Although these poems can stand alone, they are stronger when read with a knowledge of the W magazine images. A piece like "Who's Borrowing?" has more depth when you know the Richard Prince photographs that show Moss dressed in a sex-fantasist's dream of a vinyl nurse's uniform standing in front of a painting of a nurse in a gauzy surgical mask that obscures her face. The poem explains this to you, but the doubling/mirroring of the form is more fun when you see the photographs:

Kate stands in a vinyl dress that zips up the front.
Kate stands in a vinyl dress that zips up the front.
A cross of red tape affixed to her matching white hat.
A cross of red tape affixed to her matching white hat.
Kate (in a dress) affixed to a white vinyl cross, stands;
that matching red tape zips up the front of her dress. (p. 11)

Although most of the poems have a strong satiric element, the purpose of this collection is a serious consideration of what "branding" means for a woman's body image. "Obsession," a sestina, considers Moss's legacy of starvation and failed dreams. And the final poem, "She Who Gazes," considers the poet's sisterhood to Kate as a woman who bares herself, who gazes out from the page.
This sisterhood is the final irony. Kate speaks in the rhetoric of the body; Stewart-Nuñez in the rhetoric of formal poetry. Both indulge in a form of exhibitionist art that conforms to and defies the dominant male aesthetic. Like Moss herself, these poems are in form but refuse to conform. Like Moss, they are both "unbound," set free from traditional fetters and "branded," turned into a product but also marked as a miscreant. For women, art is of the body.


Sherry Chandler is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Dance the Black-Eyed Girl (Finishing Line) and My Will & Testament Is on the Desk (FootHills), and her poetry has appeared in a number of print and online magazines. She's had reviews at Smartish Pace, Pulse (Heartsounds Press), New Southerner, and Talisman. She has recently joined David Cazden as associate editor of miller's pond. She blogs at where you can find more biographical information.



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