Like the most formidable silver-screen comediennes, Stella Corso’s debut collection Tantrum is at once incisive and generous, candid and performative, full of coos and barbed truths. “I like that I can be a little dumb with you,” one poem murmurs before delivering a shattering assessment of a woman undermined by her lover. Wry and deliberately feminine, Tantrum makes a riposte to many things: capitalism, chauvinism, even William Carlos Williams. (Reading this book is a bit like watching Corso teasingly feed Williams the plums pilfered from the icebox, pits and all.) Self-possessed, self-indicting, Corso’s speakers unflinchingly explore the complex of rights and wrongs undergirding contemporary first-world femininity: “I turned away from my ambivalence / toward my proof, my receipt // I said I’m sorry / I am just a woman on vacation // I knew all events had led up to this.” Corso’s lively eye also inspects the mesh of nature and performance, art and decadence, ideas and things: “I go out into the field in my bikini / though there is no one there to see me,” “I put on my sleep mask / and see stars.” Tantrum is sure to incite and delight.
Stella Corso is a writer and performer living in Western Mass. A graduate of the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at UMass-Amherst, she is a founding member of the Connecticut River Valley Poets Theater (CRVPT) and also performs with Xfinity Theater. Some of her recent work can be found in Fanzine; jubilat; Sprung Formal; and Forklift, Ohio. She currently teaches at Western New England University and Holyoke Community College.
Before she tells you William Carlos Williams got into her head, you’ll see him. Stella Corso prods at his charge regarding ideas and things to reckon with the thingness of being a woman. To this end, the speakers in Tantrum are frank about their disappointments—how intimacy can’t guarantee understanding. How experience can’t promise wisdom. Throughout, Corso wields precision without stinginess, and remains possessed of a wit too lively to be deadpan while too grim to be breezy, producing a bracing collection of intelligence and audacity. Seriously, this is a debut iconoclastic enough to find a slant rhyme between certain famous plums and blueballs. Williams had no idea…
The magic of Stella Corso’s poems is in the space she leaves for us between the intoxicating strength of her lines. One of the most captivating books, a poetry page-turner that takes us to the end of the long body displayed on the table, leaving us altered, disturbed, aiming ourselves into life anew.
The humor and intimacy of Corso’s poems do not explain so much what it means to be a woman amongst lovers—past, future, imagined, ghostly—but feel like it.
There is a great deal of menace in Stella Corso’s startling new book. In Tantrum we find laughter, heartbreak, and the necessary darkness around us but her true and uncanny voice persists as she writes: “it is cold cold / I am poor poor / still I am.”