Model City by Donna Stonecipher (Poetry Review)
Updated: Feb 9
A wonderful book of poetry that makes you think outside the box, and paradoxically within it too. From the macro-sphere to the microsphere would be a good description of the variety and waves with which Stonecipher demands we concentrate our minds. You can get lost in the devilishly rich and playful prose alone, but there is also much here to explore in terms of hidden meaning and the powerfully evocative nature of the language.
The ruling premise of the collection is that it asks the question 'What was it like?' in 288 different ways. All of which are very original and lucidly told, much like dreams, but also full of rich imagination and important analogies. I think answering this question 'What was it like?' repeatedly through the lens of the Model City, is a great way of giving a direct comparison to our own world. Through replication on a minuscule scale, we can see our society and our world with a clearer judgement and understanding of the overall. In one of the answers to this question she says how Leonardo da Vinci once wrote that 'small rooms strengthen minds, while large rooms weaken them.' Perhaps this is one of the greatest takeaways from the book, the fact that she is saying if we reimagine the world and look upon it as if it were a model city, maybe then we could understand the world, or at the very least concentrate some of its truths much better at this smaller scale. So in a way, Stonecipher is asking us to see the world as if we were a giant looking over it, perhaps even god-like in our ways, and asking us to find wisdom and empathy there.
This book is a gift to the imagination and certainly a collection of poetry that I look forward to revisiting. I'm sure I also won't resist the urge to occasionally delve into its delights at random in the near future as I glance at it on my bookshelf. The book is also larger in page-width than your average poetry collection, which I felt lent itself very well, and presumably intentionally, to match the space needed for the prose-like structured poems within, thereby furthering enhancing the importance of spatial necessity and its fluid relationship with vacancy. As an endnote, I would also like to thank Frank Skinner, as it was thanks to his poetry podcast that the wonders of this great book of poetry was made known to me.