Book Review: Belladonna Magic by Christine Sloan Stoddard
“No one told me
was an earthquake,”
-The Storm Inside a Woman, Christine Sloan Stoddard, Belladonna Magic
Christine Sloan Stoddard’s Belladonna Magic is billed as a book of “spells in the form of poetry and photography” and it delivers a powerful dose of magic. The words so carefully tucked inside this poetic Grimoire are full of surprise and recognition. Stoddard weaves a narrative through the female body that touches on a myriad of emotions with fresh perspective.
“I rule my own little biome with stories for
my sea, my shrimp, my microscopic flora and fauna.”
–Sea Tales, Christine Sloan Stoddard, Belladonna Magic
Poems like Sea Tales, The Cruelty of Ants and Lady Minnow connect body to earth and back again. The way Stoddard describes femaleness and the connection to the ecosystem makes me want to walk into the forest, deep where there is silence, and consider myself in relation to even the smallest living things. Sea Tales impresses upon me that within the self there are so many layers yet to be discovered beneath the superficial ego. Inspired, I unearth myself. I study my soul as a complex system with many secrets yet to be discovered.
The beautiful pairings of photographs and art throughout the book heighten the experience of each poem. It is a hodgepodge of mystery and many layered photographs. Those that seem simple on the surface, upon further reflection, reveal a deeper meaning that belongs to the reader. None of these images is captioned or explained. Interpretation is individual. Though this book of spells is her own, in this way Stoddard invites me to consider what they mean to me and the reading becomes deeply personal.
“We are not ashamed to bleed.
It is our pain but also our power.
We are not ashamed to ache.
We must suffer to delight in moments of sunshine.”
–The Book of Shame, Christine Sloan Stoddard, Belladonna Magic
For every reader, this book of spells invokes something different. Though some of the poems are interconnected, there are others that stand alone. I mumur these poems repeatedly, charging them within myself. I search for a way to cast them into my heart. Words about shame intermingle with power and aching and even joy. I pull these apart one by one and examine them. They are ingredients I might tuck into a cauldron for my own ritual.
The beauty of this book is that it when I read the last poem and looked over the last photograph I felt I was not finished. Belladonna Magic begs the reader to glance again. It entreats me to open it randomly and select what is needed at the time. It is a reference book for the soul. I am encouraged to think of my own magic and power and the spells I might cast. If you’re looking for a magical inspiring read, I recommend picking up Christine Sloan Stoddard’s Belladonna Magic, you won’t be disappointed!
About the Author
Christine Sloan Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. She is the founding editor of Quail Bell Magazine, an art and culture magazine. Stoddard is also the author of Naomi and the Reckoning (Black Magic Media), Jaguar in the Cotton Field (Another New Calligraphy), Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press), Chica/Mujer (Locofo Press), Lavinia Moves to New York (Underground Voices), The Eating Game (Scars Publications), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series.