Recently a friend of mine from graduate school, Cindy Goff, a self-described Appalachian surrealist, self-published a volume of poems, Appalachian Flood, and is selling it on Amazon. Back in grad school, (we attended George Mason University in the early 90's), Cindy and I used to do a variety of surrealist-inspired writing exercises. We had both been bitten by the bug of french surrealism and would lay on her rug, smoking cigarettes, free associating into a tape recorder, then playing it back and extracting our favorite lines, and then building those into poems.

Cindy published individual poems in some quality magazines in the early 90's, including Ploughshares and Exquisite Corpse, but after running into a wall of first book contests over and over, she took a hiatus from poetry writing. Now, over ten years later, she's plunging back in, which makes me happy, as she has one of the richest imaginations I have ever encountered. Her work is raw, a little rough around the edges, but her imagery is deliciously irrational and intuitive, and there is an emotional river crackling under her strange surfaces. Here is Child Molestation, a 7-line poem, that is like no other I have seen on this subject.

Child Molestation

I remember nothing

from eight to ten

except a sensation

like someone showing

old vampire movies on my body.


The poem is a single sentence, cut into five lines, delivered in simple language, yet it is also deeply mysterious and liable to send a chill up the rickety ladder of the reader's spine. The poem creates a very disturbing, concrete image of a pre-adolescent girl being literally used as a screen, onto which old (seemingly black and white), monster movies are projected. In this case, the screen can feel what's being projected onto it. The screen is alive. A movie screen is thin, almost transparent, which suggests the vulnerability of the child's skin. A violation of this sort is certainly a projection on the perpetrator's part. A screen is also powerless to influence what is projected upon it. There may also be something nuclear about this--how every single other memory for two whole years has been obliterated and replaced by this single image. The choice of vampire movies is not arbitrary. Vampires bite the victim's delicate neck, suck out the life force, leave the smallest of wounds. This poem seems to fuse Surrealism and Confessional Poetry.


For fans of wild imagery coupled with blasts of feeling, Cindy's book is a must. It's exactly the kind of necessary work that I fear is liable to slip through the cracks of the "prize-winner" contest system. If the idea of Robert Desnos being re-born as a woman in the 1960's in the mountains of Southwest Virginia sounds interesting to you, then you will take great pleasure in this work.

Originally Published: April 12th, 2010

Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Other books include The Endarkenment (Pittsburgh, 2008), The Splinter Factory (Manic D, 2002), The Forgiveness Parade (Manic D Press, 1998), and Alibi School (Manic D, 1995). His poems have...