Review: Diagnosis by Alessandra Bava


Alessandra Bava
Dancing Girl Press

Life is short: I find I have less and less time to review books because I am too busy writing them. Consequently I only review books that I simply have to urge people to read. Like this one: poetry is an investment. A slender chapbook takes no time to read cover to cover if you read it the same way you read prose. Don’t do that.

Ideally, you should read poetry aloud and think about the words, really listen to them as you pronounce them. Repeat them, savour them.

Bava’s work is incredible always. Her poems are a knife to the gut hidden in a beautiful bouquet of words. Like the earlier Guerilla Blues, Bava digs deep into her blood for inspiration. Dedicated to Sylvia Plath, the poems delve into the dual impulses of the wild hare and the contemplative analysis.

“Beneath this shiny fur the flesh is raw–”

In the poem ‘Sister’ the poet promises: “I won’t really kill you / You won’t really have to die / You’ll be a part of me / You’ll run in my blood”: those lines capture the loving, devouring hunger behind the so-called agony of influence. We have to do it. It may be a trap, but the magic is continually reborn.

The tension between the need to understand and analyse is always at war with the need to feel and create. The titular poem offers the coldness that our roles can lock us within: the metal clang of the jail door, the label we love and yet reject. Even caged, Bava suggests, we are always free:

“Here I am. An exiled troubadour feeding on scraped plaster words, the monarch of a reign of minor beasts and bricks.”

Long may she reign.


  1. Crispinus says:

    I really liked it, too. The title poem showed her in a new light to me.

    1. katelaity says:

      It’s really quite powerful to be reading it just now as spring tries to break through this seemingly endless winter.

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