Lillian Salvatore (she/her)
photgraphy by anest williams (She/her)
I finished reading Maria Sledmere’s first poetry collection late at night. It was dark outside and I was close to sleep but I felt as if I had only just woken up, from a long dream saturated with purple hues and filled with colourful objects the shape of Instagram profiles, the moon, and rats. The Luna Erratum is a dense text, and I felt overwhelmed by the beauty of what I had just finished reading – how could I write a review that would encapsulate how I felt towards this text? I resigned to sleep on it, but this time I actually was awoken in the middle of the night from dreams haunted by images from Sledmere’s poetry.
This is the magic of The Luna Erratum. Sledmere’s grasp of language is so powerful that reading this book feels at times as if her poetry reaches out from the comfort of the page and mingles with the chemistry of our brains, forcing us to digest words and images so fast it feels as if we have experienced the most joyful form of whiplash. The collection weaves heady topics such as climate change with the moon in tandem with the earth beneath our feet, all complicated by the glow from the phone screen in our hands. Each of the five sections of The Luna Erratum opens with an illustration drawn by Sledmere herself, thick line drawings of surrealist images that echo in her poetry: massive cherry’s dangling alongside miniature mushrooms on checkerboard floors, zigzag rivers and starry skies, falling cigarettes, a dolphin. The enchanting nature of the visuals capture the intensity of the imagery found in Sledmere’s words, which seem to melt into your subconsciousness . In ‘Requisite Oil Spill Poem’, Sledmere writes:
dreamt Burtynsky took a photo
of my fisher-price dollhouse
a plastic pony in astrograss heaven
Conjuring up the dramatic landscape of a Burtynsky photograph, Sledmere places a children’s toy in the centre, binding childhood innocence with the plasticky existence of our current lives. This image begs the thought: are we already in the plastic pony’s ‘heaven’, an astrograss hell for humans? Many of the poems in The Luna Erratum are situated around our decaying planet. In ‘Just Transition’, Sledmere directly interrogates the performativity of the ‘action’ taken by our world leaders in addressing climate change:
to polish big algorithm
For a blush cause: mitigation
Of strain emission. Sorry
We can’t afford anymore.
The enjambment emphasises the hollowness of this apology, questioning, why don’t their wallets stretch to save our planet? In ‘The Problem with Indigo’, Sledmere builds Earth from fabric, the sky a ‘textile conglomerate’ with ‘all the troposphere sewn to my tongue’, drawing attention to the human causes of the climate crisis, and the power we have to change, or further damage, our planet. ‘Imagine if carbon came as soft serve’ the speaker ponders. Imagery like this is found throughout the collection, as Sledmere blends weighty topics with comforting symbols, infusing the darker themes of the text with colour, nostalgia and light, resulting in an engaging and exciting read. Towards the end of the collection, rats dart in and out of each poem, and as they ‘extend [their] tails’ to us, we ‘enter a lemonade garden of trashes’, experiencing Sledmere’s poetry dizzy with the colour and imagery of the worlds she creates. In many of the poems in The Luna Erratum, we are in a moon-tainted universe with ‘Luna,’ a ‘shapeshifting feline of satellite proportion’. In ‘Luna I’, the speaker privately ‘edits the frisky cameo of Luna / like intelligent dance music.’ Sledmere draws parallels between the forces of the moon on the human body, and the technological forces we find ourselves drawn to everyday, weaving the light from our phone screens with the natural glow of the moon.
There is so much playfulness in the way that Sledmere chooses her words and constructs her poetry. In ‘Foam Theory’ where ‘the universe is made of foams’, Sledmere writes:
No tool survives the foam
but a decorative attitude to life itself
keeps circling, circling.
It is this attitude that is so prevalent in The Luna Erratum; it keeps playing on the mind long after you’ve closed the book. Let the mesmerising universe that Sledmere creates circle in your mind, until you realise you have started living there too.
You can purchase The Luna Erratum from Dostoyevsky Wannabe