A review of I Love Crushes More than Real Things by Kristen Stone and Maureen Murtha
(Images taken from Unthinkable Creatures Etsy)
Hello Slash Pine Readers! I come today with a story. Several weeks ago, I went to my mailbox, and opened it. Inside there was an envelope, but this was no ordinary envelope. For one, it was covered in small stickers; music notes and asterisks adorned my name on the address line. Beyond that though, it was handmade from what appears to be magazine or catalog paper, and it held a handmade book. All of this diatribe is to basically say something that I love about the chapbook community—there is so much personality and so many unique touches to everything! Obviously, Kristen Stone and the folks at unthinkable creatures are not lacking in these touches.
Inside my envelope was the handmade book from this micro-press called I Love Crushes More than Real Things. The cover is a slightly thick, red stock, with photocopied hearts on one side and a medical diagram on the other, with the title copied on top of the two images. It’s pretty straight forward, effective and unassuming, hand-stitched in gray thread with a simple four-hole stitch and a loop around the top and bottom of the spine. The simple construction matches well to the simple formatting and words by Stone and her co-author Maureen Murtha.
I hesitate to refer to this as simply a poetry chapbook, when it is really more of a mixed media attempt, and I feel as if the authors would agree. With a few exceptions each page includes some visual stimulant-some in grayscale, some in color, some photos, some sketches. Sometimes this format is brilliant, tender, and creepy all at once—as in the black and white page of venous structures overlaid with the text, “we were cutting each other’s hair and I folded down the/top of her ear and it had these delicate purple blue veins/like the wing of a bat”. Other times the format leaves you with a bit of the yearning that seems to be thematic of the book, but not always in a format mimics emotion way—more an incompleteness. Several times, the text is simply printed on a stark white page—showing a kind of bleakness that often helps offset the business of the rest of the book as well as mimic the harshness of the emotions expressed in those lines. For example, near the middle of the book, there is a completely plain two page spread, with the words, “I think that’s why I was so devastated./I just knew it wasn’t gonna happen that easy again.” Those words and the realization they signify really match the stark whiteness of the pages they are on, and they stand out for their plain-ness is an otherwise visually full set of pages.
The writing itself becomes more impressive the more you visit it. At first glance it seems sparse—like moments that have the potential to be impactful. After a while though, one re-opens the pages and revisits lines like the closing statement, “why I am not a normal person:/wanting people’s secrets and to touch their wrists”. I feel a strong connection to many of the things claimed, including that one, and I am willing to bet that I am not the only reader who has felt their “subtext of mutual yearning” that is referenced in the book. The lines that are splayed across the pages by Stone and Murtha prove relatable to anyone who has ever wanted another person, and that is where the real strength and staying power of this chapbook are. Despite a few uneven touches and the initial overwhelming of the visuals, I Love Crushes More than Real Things stands up as an intriguing combination of visuals and short-form poetry, usually one line. Mine was copy 6/50 so I can’t guarantee you’ll be able to get a copy of this one, but visit unthinkable creatures at queeragripoetics.tumblr.com or e-mail founder Kristen Stone at Kristen.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about their work.