Thursday, August 30, 2007



Cinephrastics by Kathleen Ossip
(Horse Less Press, Providence, R.I., 2006)

In Which the Entire Review Is Contained in Footnotes

Wrapped in Saran wrap *1

Not one, not two, but three staples *2

The cover smudges on my hand *3

Twenty-four poems *4

Nine or ten lines each *5

Most about contemporary movies *6

Ek-phrasis *7

Cine-phrastics *8


1. The book came to me entirely wrapped in Saran wrap. Not shrink wrapped as books that come from Amazon with a stack of buckslips promoting products or services that I don’t want and not shrink wrapped with tight perfection that requires scissors as some books come from certain publishing houses. This book was wrapped in Saran wrap and clearly was wrapped by hand as well, a small blob of Saran wrap on the back had been pressed firmly in as though to cover a small imperfection. It was done with care, certainly, but I could almost feel the frustration of the static as the wrapper molded the Saran wrap around the completed book.

2. The book is a perfect square, 6 inches by 6 inches, with three staples on the left hand side. A friend of mine published a chapbook over a year ago and when she told her sister, an aspiring poet, that her book was going to be published, her sister asked if it would have a staple. I suppose to distinguish it from a perfect-bound book, as if a book with a staple and not perfect bound were less of a book, as if the poems in the book were less good or less work because they were bound with a staple. I think about that now always when I pick up a book with a staple binding. Back to this book. This perfect square with three staples. These are big staples, almost industrial staples. I confess, I’m jealous of the publisher for owning such a stapler. I struggle with my basic office stapler, which only will easily fix about seventeen pages of standard paper. I’d like to have a large stapler to affix securely so many pages. I wonder though, why three? With a six inch spine, wouldn’t two suffice? Yet, who am I to second-guess this modern handmade artistry? No one. I search for meaning in those three staples.

3. Ah, the significance of the Saran wrap is revealed! The gorgeous cover art, which is both the cover and the back, with artwork by Kate Schapira, smudges, slightly but definitively, on my hands. Black thick paper with white art. The black smudges my finger tips. I don’t rub it too much. I rewrap it carefully each time I put it away.

4. The twenty-four poems of the book each take their title from a movie. Each poem is settled on the bottom of the page. This leaves plenty of room for white space which seems to provide mental space for one’s own recollections about the film as elicited by the poems themselves.

5. I feel like this is a particular form, but I cannot identify it.

6. Contemporary movies all within the past decade. I rush through the volume the first time reading especially the poems about movies I’ve seen, wanting to cherish the ones about movies I love. “The Hours” disappoints. “Ella Enchanted”--which I haven’t seen--delights.

7. Ekphrasis is poetry written in response to another object of art. Often a piece of visual art, sculpture, painting, watercolor, sketch, or other object contained in an art museum. Ossip craftily combines the Latinate cine with phrases to name her poems in this collection.

8. The new word--a form of poetry and a content basis--that defines a standard for writing poetry about films.


Julie R. Enszer is a writer and lesbian activist living in Maryland. She has previously been published in Iris: A Journal About Women, Room of One’s Own, Long Shot, the Web Del Sol Review, and the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. You can learn more about her work at


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