Review by Tasslyn Magnusson
Christine Stewart-Nuñez is here to guide us into the miraculous space of poetry built by architecture. In The Poet & The Architect, she shows us the blueprints of one family’s journey to connect – through action and word. Can you shape a set of master plans that both reveals one family’s journey and provides a structural map to your own (the reader’s) home of poems?
Throughout this collection Stewart-Nuñez highlights the structures that connect us. In “Site Planning” it is the “interstates” and “neural networks” and the “lifelines” and “net” that shape a family’s physical and emotional distance (52). In “An Architect’s Kiss” she offers the “duct-rooms within these / castles of cells” as a husband “attends, my body blessed” (15). The architect is a poet and the poet an architect and together they create a family.
Her theme of architecture of all kinds is tailor made for poems, using some of my favorite poetic tools. Visual structures: whether it is the use of repetition and the imposition it makes on the page in “Brand: Bring Your Dreams” (28), or the bifurcation in “Cleave” (25) or the energy barely contained by the structure of “Love on a Grid” (16), Stewart-Nuñez is showing us over and over the relationship between the structure and energy available in poetry. She reveals that the way we understand how words are linked and ordered and shaped creates the energy of the poem. “In poems, / space between lines is an accident / of sound or a guillotine of meaning. / Even forms and fonts can splice / and cleave slippery combinations,” (66).
Sometimes poems rich in imagery feel fleeting or see-through, perhaps in the way relationships between people might feel tenuous. But what The Poet & The Architect shows us is entirely the opposite. Poems and families and love and people are filled with countless connection points and structures that bind us together. We just need the courage to name those points. For Stewart-Nuñez, clearly, the courage comes from her extraordinary ability to weave those words and sift the construction dust to find the strength beneath. As Stewart-Nuñez writes: “A range of scope of fractals / inspire awe, a cascade of never-ending / wonder at both / connections and aberrations as / well / as places of perfect order and broken patterns,” (81). Her poems reveal the structures of family connection and our miraculous ability to shape those into words – we should do as Stewart-Nuñez suggests and sit in our awe and wonder at the poet’s architecture of connection.
The Poet & The Architect by Christine Stewart-Nuñez
Terrapin Books 2021
Paper, 100 pages $16
Tasslyn Magnusson received her MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Broad River Review, Room Magazine, Mom Egg Review, The Raw Art Review: A Journal of Storm and Urge, and Red Weather Online. Her chapbook, “defining,” from dancing girl press was published in January 2019. She lives in Prescott, WI with her husband and two kids and two dogs.