A review of Sea Glass Catastrophe by Quinn Rennerfeldt

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Sea Glass Catastrophe
by Quinn Rennerfeldt
Francis House
$10, 24 pages

Sea Glass Catastrophe is a chapbook hand-folded and bound containing 24 pages of prose poetry. Quinn Rennerfeldt is an award-winning poet and the co-founder of Q/A Poetry, a journal promoting women and nonbinary poets.

Visually this little book does not reflect what is inside it with its grey covers and an intriguing title – sombre and unimpressive, but that is not what the reader will encounter inside.

Reading the poems, I felt like I was entering a subconscious mind where images, sounds and thoughts intermingled in an exuberant and exotic dance of words.

With rich imagery the author narrates, describes and express feelings, sensations and thoughts. Do not expect any logical sequence or neat narrative with a beginning a middle and an end.Some sections in the poems are easy to grasp but others require more than one reading to get into its meaning, others are like a Roschach Test.

There is music in Sea Glass Catastrophe words flow sometimes in a precipitous way, others with measured and a toned-down cadence with a sprinkle of sharp notes. In this chest of surprises we read poems that tell us of pain and hunger, joy and search, sinning and redemption. Some of the poems are mirrors with many faces, crystals that are coloured by Quinn’s creativity.

Food and ‘the body’ play an important in Rennerfeldt poetry, like in “Bone Broth” and in “Hunger Is My Astrological Sign” where we encounter food and the body, the poet even declares: “Food is a word I savour.”  In the following poem ‘the body’ occupies a central part in the narrative. In “The Illest” the writer says:

My head becomes an overripe balloon ready to rupture.
With each wracking cough, I threaten to burst at the hair’s
seams. Spit and mucus from each orifice. Lungs rattle,
broken filaments of a light bulb. I am flush, febrile. My skull
is a-thrum with unrequited phone calls. There is a grinding
in my stomach: not hunger. Not nausea. Just a pit,
opening like a whirl in the ocean.

Rennerfeldt surprises us with the associations she makes and with the situations she encounters and describes, her words are sometimes profound others banal and irrisory, the serious and the comic go hand in hand often leaving the reader thinking others smiling.

There are many symbolisms and metaphors in this little book, words strung together with passion, questioning and even despair. Some of the poems deal with existential dread even Sartre figures in the poem titled “Please Write Back (SASE included)”, she writes:

Dear Sartre, is this all there is? Chasing dog shit with a bag
In hand as it rolls downhill? Buying my children tchotchkes
They don’t need? A thumb rubbing snail smudges across a
small glass plane? I am stalking substance: my hips aligned
with the music, that sweet slight-drunk I get sometimes,
irrepressible laughter tumbling like spilled marbles from my
daughter’s mouths. I think I am happy, which I think means
not actively trying to die. But who am I, the OED?

Motherhood also makes an appearance in Sea Glass Catastrophe, cleverly she ponders about the role of mother and how to balance vigilance: the need to be an helicopter parent or being laissez affaire. “Hard Garden”, explains it:

Grown men are often swept up by waves but I let my
daughters play in the Pacific anyway.  I am not brave, just
reticent to force my kids to behave.  I allow their clumsy
jumps from cavernous heights, their wrestling in the hard
garden, let them cut down a hill on their scooters, until my
arms and legs can no longer carry my body to their rescue,
should they need it, should they forget to brake and instead
snake their way into four lanes of traffic. Sometimes, I turn
my back on them at the playground, allow myself to lose
sight of their frizzy heads, so finally, finally, they can talk
about me with tantalizing frankness. Or perhaps they’ll just
sit there, relish the privacy, that most rare and delicious egg.

Sea Glass Catastrophe is Rennerfeldt’s first book and it she demonstrates her talent, I look forward to reading Rennerrfeldt next collection.

About the reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The authors poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish), other books are A Call to the Star and Forbidden Steps Under the Wisteria. Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.