What follows is a book review through the lens of a poem.
Recently, well, a couple months back now, I received and devoured Scarlet Imprint’s summer publication, The Brazen Vessel†. It is a collection of essays that gathers 10 years of work from both Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey, ranging from unpublished essays, to presentations. I am reviewing the standard paperback edition.
The book is a hefty tome coming in at 431 pages total. It has a two-fold softcover made of sturdy cardboard, with a card stock quality to it. The layout of the words and the pages are pleasing to the eyes with comfortably spaced font, and ample space around the text for notes. After each essay there is a bibliography of the works cited in the text, which I really appreciated since this makes it easy to refer back to when one is researching specific lines and trajectories beyond the essay itself. There are a total of 35 essays, with a couple lyrical works included in the mix. They are in general chronological order, from the early years of Scarlet Imprint onward. This allows the reader to witness the expansion, complexity, and growth of both Alkistis and Peter as practitioners of the craft and as artists. I was pleasantly surprised to find images as well, black and white, all contextualizing or elaborating on the text wherein they are embedded.
Moving on from the technicalities, The Brazen Vessel is a book meant to be experienced, to be savored, and pondered on. It is a disclosure on a living devotion. A book that birthed in me as a reader, feelings of euphoria, love, fascination, anger, inspiration, discomfort, ecstasy, and pleasure. Just as these feelings arose, so they de-materialized like mist. For the book is meant to be experienced fully in the moment, then retaken anew to allow for new revelations to arise to the surface. It meets the reader on equal ground, bearing its secret, reddened contents unashamed. What stayed with me throughout my experience of reading it, and has reached beyond the last page is how it has put my own practice into perspective. Namely, what does it mean for me to embody my work (Work) daily, to live it in the flesh? What does devotion and relationship (beyond the skin on skin relationship) mean to me and how does it take form in my life, in my living experience? How do I as a living body relate to the living animate place in which I practice my craft?
Sitting with these questions energized me in refreshing and enlivening ways. Some essays stood out more than others for myself, which I’m sure will change as I change over time, and with more re-reads. It is interesting to note that when I began reading the book, it was from a more reverent stance, fearful of marking it or dirtying the pages. Midway, I found myself incapable of resisting the urge to mark it up, to underline, and add my own comments and words to the pages. I began to carry it around, to let it sit with me in different places throughout my daily routines. It now has a subtle wine stain in a couple of the end pages, markings, and additional thoughts of my own. It has become a part of my experience.
Needless to say I recommend the book, especially if you are magically inclined, a witch, a magician, etc. Admittedly, I’m biased as I purchased the book already having had a taste of Scarlet Imprint’s work. I got the book expecting to enjoy it, and I did, but I was also gifted more than enjoyment. In the end, the best way to encapsulate my encounter with the book is through an inspired poem I created while reading it.
The Red Woman
I am the bedecked red woman, cloaked in splendor, covered in jewels. Bright gifts of the dark womb of earth.
I am the old hag, bent and steady, that lives under the mountain’s shadow, the blood-drinker and the flesh-eater. My hair is knotted like the roots of an old tree, a tangle of defiance and rebellion.
I am the story keeper of mothers and grandmothers, of the sleeping matri-lineal lines.
I am youth unbounded, unbridled eroticism. The ecstasy of newfound contact. My skin is like silk, soft and supple to the touch. I thrive in the body, in movement and feeling, kinesthetic energy.
I am the librarian, guardian of books and container of words. Utterance. Verbose dexterity, mental acuity, and discernment are I. Standing ‘midst the written words of centuries, holding unbounded, unspoken more.
I am the raging armored warrior, thriving in bloodlust, wielding weapons of terror and violence.
I am the whispered stories, the unrecognized bodies, the caretakers, healers, makers, weavers, overflowing with love.
I am the sweet one, the bright one, shape-shifter, young one, wrinkled, timeless, old, dweller of wells, wanderer of forested paths, of the hearth, of the circle, tender one, ecstatic one, sensual, clean one, defiled one.
I am called by many names, inhabit many bodies, I am the mother line, the cauldron, unquenched fire, and the deep dark secrets of the land.
I am cavernous and moist, circuitous and winding.
I am she who stands outside and beyond the megalomaniac emanation on the throne. I spit on that steel throne and curse the boundaries of categorizations. I abhor that which disregards me in all my forms, I am kaleidoscope. A labyrinth of multi-valence.
I am she who grasps the bloody cup, and with trembling limbs straddles the lion.
I am the titillating topography of undulating valleys, and the rippling waves of the ocean breaking the stillness.
I am the deep and the night draped in the nocturnal chorus.
I am Temperance, but also Justice.
I am the poisoner and the deceitful one, the virility that engenders, and the creator that forms; the aleatory cycles of movement, song, and presence.
I am not done, but ever-becoming.
† Link will lead to a presentation by Alkisits on the launch of the book.
-The Brazen Vessel can be purchased here: Scarlet Imprint Publications.