Reviewed by Barbara Kelly, Book Review Editor, The Emily Dickinson International Society Bulletin
Recipient of the 2007 EDIS Graduate Fellowship Award, Anderson brings together poetry and science in her debut collection of thirty-five poems divided into three sections: "Tulips," "Bees," and "The Animal Parliament." The book's title is taken from Emily Dickinson's lines, "In vain to punish Honey -- / It only sweeter grows" (J1562). Like Dickinson, Anderson has an affinity for the natural world and can be cryptic, dark, and linguistically difficult. Evie Shockley cites Anderson's "explosive diction and endlessly shifting syntax." Echoes of Dickinson can be found in words, phrases, and lines like "charnel house," "the sign of true election," and "Magnolia, throat too soon open to the fumbling fingers of beetles." For Dickinson, "'Hope' is the thing with feathers --," but for Anderson (sounding here much like Sylvia Plath), "Behold hope as an insect bitch, golden bones / for legs, wraith-wristed, of course, a parody of the fat / and feathered." In Anderson's elegiac world marked by disease and entropy, even magnolia blossoms are on the wane as "wine-stained gloves." Her world can be dream-like and fearsome, often edging toward nightmare and brutality, recalling Tennyson's world, "red in tooth and claw." Anderson's poems do not offer cheer, comfort, or happy endings, but for serious readers interested in the poet's use of language and metaphor, with words and ideas put together in inventive ways, these poems can provide what Alice Fulton calls "a sumptuous linguistic feast."
Anderson, Karen Leona. Punish Honey.
Durham, NC: Carolina Wren Press, 2009. 49 pp.
Paper, ISBN 0-932112-58-3. $14.95.