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Chapbook Reviews

Crushed Marigold: A Sacred Experience

Some poets exist at the intersection between self and a kind of spiritual communion that is uncommon in our hyper-present society. In a time when we are taught to crave the attention of our phone screens, moments of quiet reflection become more and more of an avoided silence. We have built our days around anticipated communication while ignoring how we can connect with not only ourselves but with narratives that exist outside of time.

The collection of poems exhibited in Christiana Castillo’s Crushed Marigold exists outside of our hyper-present society. Castillo’s chapbook instills a sense of timelessness that allows the reader to engage in practices of active remembrance, dedicated to her lineage, culture, and identity: “Light the candles Mija, these prayers are our protection,/our birthright. Mija, this is for you./Mija, it’s the part of us that will always survive.” The language within these poems function as a prayer; the repetition of specific words and phrases become internalized chants as Castillo leads the reader through the chapbook.

As you read through the poetic landscape of Crush Marigolds, Castillo is ever-present with the reader as you begin to perform the ritual offering alongside her, engaging with Castillo’s spirit through a reimagined space within her identity. By reading these poems, Castillo engages the reader in the act of preservation, found through remembrance, through making a sacred space within our readership, to reflect on the power of words which connect our reality with something much deeper and more soulful: “I am not waiting for a white god to save me, / I am not waiting for a new shrine, / I survived. /Authenticity remembered more than / assimilation / … I survived.” 

Castillo is working in the practice of heritage, viewing the past through an active lens meant to be engaged with as a source of reflection and reassurance. Crush Marigolds reminds me that reading is an action. We are not only impacted by the narratives at hand but also the practice of reading words as a ritual, breaking down the barrier between content and medium to create a collection that intertwin both. Alongside Castillo’s poetry, the companion illustrations by Karla Rosas beautifully represent the themes explored throughout the chapbook, two artists sharing their reflections on communion and ritual in a genuinely symbiotic way. 

Poetry has been used to create a sacred experience for millenniums. Its unique intimacy surpasses social boundaries and allows unexpected connections to flourish. By creating an experience that is thematically and performatively sacred, Castillo creates space for narratives that push against the fast-paced anticipation of modern culture, engaging the reader in remembrance through action rather than passive consumption. Crushed Marigolds preserves the memory of a survivor, whose rituals and offerings have become the stories of legends. Castillo reminds us that those narratives are not gone nor forgotten but present in the moments between the anticipation for what is to come; the breath of the past, combined with the voice of the future to create some sacred. 

Crushed Marigolds was published in October 2020 by Flower Press in Detroit, Michigan.

Paige Hartenburg
Paige Hartenburg

Paige Hartenburg is an English literature student at Miami University. 

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