Debridement, Corrina Bain
Great Weather for MEDIA, 2015
Reviewed by Jonita Davis
Poetry captures the human condition using the imagery of words. A number of great poets are well loved for the beautiful pictures they paint using the lyrical properties of the English language. This is why everyone has seen a Robert Frost poem made into a card, or a Langston Hughes quote on a dentist’s office wall. Good poetry can convey the human condition in a few words culminating into one meaningful image.
Corrina Bain’s Debridement is full of imagery, some of it brutally honest and a few so full of meaning that they weigh on the heart as the eyes take the words in. The subject matter, however, may be a bit too much for some readers to take in.
If Debridement were a collection of paintings instead of poems, it would be named: “Death and the Feminine Form.” Each poem tracks the means, motives, and essentially the lyrical backstory behind some of the most macabre deaths recorded in history. Suicides, domestic abuse, and tragic tales of women lured to a bad end in bad ways are material that make up the poems in this collection.
Curiously, Bain chooses the subject matter for each poem in a carefully structured web that readers will eventually see once the last poem is read. Death and the feminine form was not chosen as the subject of the poetry because of the shock value. Instead, Bain uses the tropes to unveil the true condition of the feminine body in American culture—frail, manipulated by men, stereotyped by society, and flayed for the sake of beauty.
In Debridement, Bain is peeling back the veil, denial, and naivety that shields our culture from the way that women have been used since the early days of stereotypical starlet, to the supposedly equal and open society we claim to inhabit today. Bain rinses off that luster to reveal a portrait of a body in blood and despair with brutal imagery. “True Confessions of 1944” is an example:
My secretary found me
but she knew
dead actresses belong to everyone,
the way my life did.
The screen behind
my face rolling back and away
from the leading man. (“True” 1-7)
The poem goes on to paint a portrait of a young girl who came to Hollywood looking for fame and love, but finding disillusionment and heartache. She commits suicide after finding herself pregnant, living a lie, and facing a life of poverty. But, once she’s gone, she knows that Hollywood will rewrite her story to become a wholesome tragedy that warns others, but does not discourage future dead actresses from streaming into the city.
Though the subject matter is difficult to swallow at times, Bain’s work is worth the read. It is an eye-opening look at the way the feminine form is used, abused, and thrown away—full of lessons for anyone who naively believes that world is beyond the need for feminist literary images.