X Marks the Dress: A Registry. Co-written with Carol Guess. Persea Books, 2022. Available here.
*A Small Press Distribution Recommended Book*
Praise for X Marks the Dress:
X Marks the Dress: A Registry by Kristina Marie Darling & Carol Guess presents the scintillating variables of time and its complex philosophical relationship with experiential space. These poems spark an incandescent fire of imagination in an enormous tonal range. Positioned on both sides of the mirror at once, watching reflections of ever-changing backgrounds of relationships and marriage. Like dreaming about having a dream this book cajole, beckon and posit in transcendent, expressive, and provocative words. Ultimately, the words never fill the void. Instead, they take us deeper and deeper down to a dark and disorienting place that continually excites the reader with its possibilities. This is an excellent work from two wonderful poets.
—Geoffrey Gatza, author of House of Forgetting & Secrets of My Prison House
In X Marks the Dress, Guess & Darling weave a narrative of love and identity that unpacks itself again and again. Like beautifully wrought Matryoshka dolls, these poems explore the depth and wonder of language as well as its inability to truly define any one thing. Lines and images reappear in new and surprising ways—footnotes, appendices, definitions—that stunningly illustrate exactly how slippery love can be.
—Erin Elizabeth Smith, author of The Naming of Strays
In Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess’s collaborative book, X Marks the Dress: A Registry, the reader receives a delicious catalog of wants. The cohabitation of idealized domestic bliss and the wild and unwilling spirit of individuality split the difference. The newlyweds divide the baby crib in half. The unspoken gets footnoted. The remnants get erased and placed in the appendices. In glorious sequences of riffs, flirtations, recombinations, and dances, Darling and Guess’s collaboration intoxicates. Though the wedding china may get smashed against the trees, and though the stiletto heels may get broken, the moments in these lyrical vignettes will be long enshrined “on a red satin pillow.”
—Oliver de la Paz, author of Requiem for the Orchard
These poems are arch, eyeing the cake. They undo us as we enter their rooms, our lace caught on the door knob, our mouths dripping generations of nameless desire. Each poem is a strand that keeps us tied to the marriage ritual, yet the reader is left diced up and served, simmered in pink, skeptical of the heart yet wanting to eat another’s. “I love you more because I love you both” is the song we dance to, the cadence that questions what a bond is, and between whom, and whether it is possible to love at all (when love is a mirror in a room of mirrors).
—Emily Kendal Frey, author of The Grief Performance
Reviews of X Marks the Dress:
“Organized as poems, footnotes, appendices of missing text, and poetry fragments surviving a fire, Darling and Guess’s para-text resists normative expectations, much as the three personas of the poems—the bride, the transgendered groom, and his/her mistress—do. Their identities are constructed and revealed but always constrained, as when the bride’s gown slips from her shoulder, rendering her ‘trussed,’ ‘strapless,’ and ‘bridled.’ X marks the dress as a site of contestation, the illusion of romantic perfection unraveling with one strategic tug.” – The Boston Review.
“While marriage may be taking no prisoners in this collection, it’s clear that the union of Darling and Guess was a perfect one. They produced a stunning, vivid, and emotionally visceral feminist rumination. They take tremendous formal risks in the construction of this book, and all those risks carry major, hard earned truths.” – Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing.
“The poems in this collaborative collection enact, then undermine, that presumption of happiness-by-checklist, love as consumable and static, marriage as a meeting of complimentary objects.” – Rain Taxi.
“By turns narrative and lyric, imagistic and minimalistic, X Marks the Dress is a collaborative tour de force of great emotional and epistemological weight.” – Lambda Literary Review.
“This collection reveals characters that are potentially scandalous, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, naive, unique, and altogether exciting.” – Poet Hound.
“X Marks the Dress: A Registry is a really delicious affair with words, seamlessly colored with the mingling voices of two stunning poets. Their collaboration stands tall – thematically timely – in a modern world unwrapping the marriage conversation. Readers be warned: these poems are truly the cake toppers of poetic expression!” – Poetry that Moves.
“Poetry and prose have a knack, when in the right hands, for animating cultural artifacts, giving them and the people that use them a voice. Using objects as symbols of power, or evil, or as a device for the telling of a story, is as old as time. But Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess, in their wonderful collection X Marks the Dress, have shown a unique way to use everyday items as a language unto itself.” – Bookslut.
“Darling and Guess courageously tackle a culturally accepted institution by twisting it on its side and upending wedding and marriage clichés. It is a startling, dim story that has to be read twice to put the pieces together, and challenges readers to ask: Are you marked? And by whom?” – Prick of the Spindle.
“The wedding registry is a document of immense cultural and emotional freight, and the items on it laden with symbolic meaning. It’s this heavy subject that Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess deftly examine in X Marks the Dress: A Registry, highlighting the gulf between the pageantry of a wedding, and the more mundane roles we eventually inhabit.” – The Rumpus.
“X Marks the Dress marks out the instability of gender, of femaleness, and of the gender roles seemingly assigned by marriage in a current culture where the meaning of marriage is being revaluated, remade, and redrawn, like a cartographer might plot anew an area of land after a seismic shift.” – The Collagist.
“In X Marks the Dress, Darling and Guess have woven together a beautiful, haunting collection of poems that ask us to consider the authenticity of our relationships as well as the wedding pomp and circumstance with which we celebrate ourselves.” – Front Porch Journal.
“A fascinating dialogue: between the authors, between traditional and experimental forms, and between desires that cannot be contained within the roles so often assigned to gender.” – Tarpaulin Sky Magazine.
“There are the things we want, the things we need—and the things we end up with. These items, exquisitely catalogued in Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess’s wedding day registry, X Marks the Dress, form a ‘parade of memorable objects.'” – The Small Press Book Review.
“It would be hard to ignore that both Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess are publishing powerhouses; they have (at last count) thirty books between them. Kristina’s work has been called ‘wondrous, indulgent, and lush,’ and of Carol Guess, ‘[her] work approaches the edge of territory dark and unmanageable…’ It is with these two lyric forces that ‘X Marks the Dress: A Registry’ is wrought, a book over-ripe with discontent and still, somehow, bewitching.” – Rufous City Review.
“All told, this is a book to love, to be in love with. It’s bold, admirable, and edgy. Exactly what Dickinson had in mind when she described poetry as something that ripped off the top of her head…They’ve created their own world, and we’ve been given the chance to see it through their hard won transcendence.” – Barn Owl Review.
“This collaboration resulted in one of the most interesting and catching poetry books I’ve come across this year.” – Parallax Literary Magazine.
“X Marks the Dress: A Registry is rich with objects and beautiful language, but it is the emotion that the collection taps into that makes it unforgettable.” – H_NGM_N Journal.
“A wonderful and entertaining collaboration.” – PANK Magazine.
“This is a book to be read carefully again and again.” – The Lit Pub.
“Darling and Guess strike a match…and leave the page burning long after the book has closed.” – Fact-Simile Magazine.
Interviews about X Marks the Dress:
The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review Book Club
Sundress Publications: Project Bookshelf
“Silk Flowers, Trussed” in Requited