Her Body Listening is a fitting title for Cheryl Pallant’s latest collection, a slim volume that cunningly explores the female subconscious in a wide range of experiences. Pallant is a certified Healing Touch and Reiki practitioner and has written books on dance, somatics, and healing— all of which come together in Her Body Listening, newly released by BlazeVox Books. The book unfolds, fractal-like, gently, as a series of prescriptions; “Reinforce Vital Pulse,” “Illumine the Ecstatic Plane,” and “Feel Axial Glee” are titles of individual poems in this collection. In nearly all of the poems, we find a woman stripping away artifice in language, leaving the inimitable understanding of the body as it processes social proscriptions, arousal, the creative impulse, trauma, shame, and joy.
While the book is a somatics, exploring a distinctly female poetics of body, there is also the individual in that poetics. “This she is an I,” the poet writes, “I am listening to my best step forward.” The poem goes on to describe the narrator’s re-birth insofar as she seeks a state of pure experience, pure feeling:
I glisten newly born, red faced, mouthing
words while stumbling, bumping walls and doors, an
arrogance of surfaces, an obstinancy of angles.
If somatics are the spontaneous rhythms and verve of the body, semiotics are the linguistic and literary devices necessary to translate. Here is where the tension in this collection hinges. The poet is engaging in the work of translating the bones, the breath, “mouthing words” onto a surface, a shape, however arrogant and obstinate the limitations of language might render them. The work of translation resonates throughout the collection:
She releases knowing’s addiction to holds
upon the mind
to learn the language that speaks you (“Feel Axial Glee”).
That there exists a linguistics of the body and that the body can effectively speak is a trademark of creative inquiry into somatics. Nevertheless, learning this language is certainly not an easy task, which perhaps explains Pallant’s penchant for the antipodal. Her Body Listening is rife with juxtapositions, reversals, and isometrics. In the poem “Leap Toward,” the poet’s ‘she’ “widely narrows” and “cooly blazes.” In “Liberate Tension,” she “tells them question” and “sweets parody.” At the conclusion of the latter poem, “hands call attention. Listen palmically.” Listening is given a demonstrative quality; the body gestures with the expressiveness of hands in the way it alerts, gives attention.
Elsewhere in this collection, contraction and relaxation describe so much of the body’s communication:
Her cells divide and bicker in friction of function (“Thread to Descend”)
Harness what grabs hold
and give rein to think run a muck
every cite cinched by
skin so flush (“Reside Within”).
These signifiers make synapse and muscle prolix, and the poet both guards and directs the movements across the page. Others have noted the improvisational qualities of jazz in these poems; there are many parallels to dance here, too.
This collection is titled Her Body Listening, but a response is registered also. That response is parsed in obedience to each of the poet’s prescriptions, most movingly in the final poem’s prescription, “Emanate Without Excuse,” where we read the concluding lines:
To be taken seriously, she takes herself seriously.
In the manifest of dreams, dreams imagine her.
Click here to purchase a copy of Her Body Listening from Blaze Vox Books.
Laura Page is a graduate of Southern Oregon University and editor of Virga Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rust + Moth, The Rumpus, Crab Creek Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, TINGE, Red Paint Hill, and others. Her chapbook, "Sylvia Plath in the Major Arcana" is forthcoming from Anchor & Plume Press.
Cover Image:"Prayer Series 4"14.5" x 223" x 26"TeaYoun Kim-Kassor