door of thin skins
by Shira Dentz
As a young woman, the narrator underwent psychotherapy and became ensnared in a nightmare scenario of seduction and abuse perpetrated by her highly regarded therapist. This dark passage and the struggle to free herself from this psychological bondage forms the basis of door of thin skins (CavanKerry Press; April 2013; $16.00), Dentz’s harrowing narrative, rendered through a visual kaleidoscope of poetry and memory.
“door of thin skins is a riveting pastiche of dramatic lines, rhythmical poetry, graphic poetry, typographical poetry and prose poetry, as well as metaphors that shock and bloom, all in the unexpected risk-taking that is art,” says Molly Peacock. “The poet’s clever innovation of an edgy and oddball brand of avant-garde song-and-response tells this tale by replicating a psychological mix of thought, feeling, fact, history, and personal history. Dentz triumphs in her dazzling and fractured narrative. door of thin skins startles and astounds.”
At twenty-one, the narrator put her trust in Dr. Abe, nearly three times her age, and a former president of the psychoanalytic division of the A.P.A. among other professional distinctions. Before long, the doctor has crossed the line of his profession, mingling the personal with the clinical, until finally embarking on inappropriate sexual relations with his patient. For the young analysand, this encroachment into “the gray airy-a/of boundaries between patient and therapist” has devastating psychological effects, as she grapples with the meaning of this false manifestation of transference.
He splayed his fingers apart, their movement a Japanese pure, make-a-vacuum style, allowing them to twitch in all directions, implying cherry blossom petals dangling from boughs. He was a tall and fat man, his fingers incongruously refined, long and sculptural. Of course the fingertips flipped up. I say of course because even at rest he gave the impression that he covered everything; above and below.
How the very signal of that gesture enveloped to the point of obfuscating my senses This is why it is nearly impossible to communicate, to hand over the experience.
(from “10. Hands”)
Confused by her therapist’s colliding signals, she will turn both inward and outward to assuage her uncertainty and guilt. Seeking recourse at last by reporting Dr. Abe to the powers that be, the protracted process proves as arduous and psychologically dangerous as the initial transgressions, until the poet discovers she can never fully leave the fever dream behind:
Two trees compete for the same spot, twisting around each other.
Dense woods, Dr. Abe
And emotionally raw and visually innovative work, “Shira Dentz’s door of thin skins is not only an intimate narrative of seduction and abuse, but a tour de force of assemblage,” says Karen Brennan, author of The Real Enough World. “Each gallery-worthy page is meticulously arranged, prose overlain with lyric sequences, visual space with visual density. From every angle, door of thin skins is a chilling and exquisite document.”
About Shira Dentz
Born and raised in the New York City area, Shira Dentz has lived and taught during the last ten years in Iowa, Utah, and Florida. She is the author of black seeds on a white dish, a book of poems that was nominated for the PEN/Osterweil Award, and a chapbook, Leaf Weather. Her writing has appeared in many journals including The American Poetry Review, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, and Western Humanities Review, and online at The Academy of American Poets, NPR, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily. Her awards include an Academy of American Poets’ Prize, The Poetry Society of America’s Lyric Poem and Cecil Hemley Memorial Awards, Electronic Poetry Review’s Discovery Award, and Painted Bride Quarterly’s Poetry Prize. She holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Utah. She is Writer-in Residence at The New College of Florida and is Book Review Editor at Drunken Boat. In addition to writing and teaching, Dentz is a freelance graphic artist.