CavanKerry Press. 2013. 96 pages.

Reviewed by Kristina Marie Darling 

In her stunning second collection of poems, Shira Dentz offers readers a smart, and often fearless, discussion of the relationship between language and power. Presented as a series of short prose vignettes that make innovative use of typography, the book narrates a young woman’s journey through psychoanalysis, throughout which her analyst breaches ethical, professional, and emotional boundaries. As Dentz describes “the medicine man in his opaque box,” “the formal complaint,” and “the privilege of silence,” she offers readers a beautiful synthesis of form and content, suggesting—through her use of white space, handwritten passages, and the overtly visual presentation of her work—that one person’s authority over another resides only in the creation of narrative.

Dentz’s use of oversized letters in her prose vignettes proves especially thought-provoking. Frequently using the size of certain characters to suggest, and at times parody, the authority we invest in clinical narratives, Dentz challenges this impulse to value one person‘s words over another‘s. As the book unfolds, Dentz shows us that the hierarchies we impose upon language—in which medical, legal, and scientific discourses are invested with greater authority—ultimately reproduces the inequalities present in society, as only privileged social groups have access to these modes of thinking and writing. Consider “Dr. Abe‘s Psychotherapy,” in which Dentz writes,

door of thin skins. A woman‘s torso with flowing
breasts, blue and tarnished. the slight and gold.
A woman’s torso with flowing breasts,
blue and crannies of a tree; on their hole.
whale of a man greets me at the door of his penthouse apartment. Very friendly. (3)

Here, Dentz suggests through her inventive formal choices that, in much the same way that Dr. Abe towers over the speaker in his physical stature, his words are invested with greater value by society. The clinical narrative that Dr. Abe will create will ultimately carry greater authority than a purportedly subjective personal anecdote. In many ways, this impulse to value the clinical over the personal reproduces social inequalities, as Dentz underscores the glaring gender imbalance within the field of psychotherapy. Throughout the book,