{ review by A.H. Lewis of Crystal Stone’s ~Knock-Off Monarch~ }


Knock-Off Monarch
poems by Crystal Stone
Dawn Valley Press (2018)


Knock-Off Monarch is a poetry collection for the visceral and the shifting, those who are lost and those who wish to find themselves. There are themes of nature evoked through the very title itself; images of southern living as someone from the “nawth” with descriptions of Mississippi convenience stores and conversations; religion with modern twists with titles like “My Family as Disciples at the Last Supper” and “Moses and Zipporah Attend a Roller Derby Game,” to name a few. Stone’s experience as a young woman navigating the tumults of becoming her own person, with femininity and queerness awkwardly holding hands as her sexual and self-identity are explored in her first poem, “First Impressions,” which proudly states, “I first admitted I was queer to a black woman.” The otherness in us seeks out the acceptance that which is “other” around us, but it is not so for Stone: “She/told me I twisted Jesus’ words when I close-read the Bible for her and barely spoke to me again.” Stone’s self is rejected in person so she takes to the pages and tells the strangers she’ll refer to as readers where we absorb her words as she intended us to, with the honesty and uneasy footing of people also looking to find ourselves in others. We both cringe along with her empathically and know that we are getting Stone’s life through the eyes and words of emotional rawness—nothing is spared: not the reader, not the truth of events, and certainly not the poet herself.

One of the most striking ideas in Stone’s collection is her struggle with religion in an ill-fitting mold of contemporary ideology. These stories don’t have places in our times or interpretations for young people, so Stone resets them to assimilate to a better and more updated understanding while preserving their outlandishness. We have “Mom interrupts Solomon” and “Noah Goes to Rehab,” for instance. In the poem “Peter and Ralph Waldo Emerson Walk through the Woods Together,” Peter’s representation of Catholicism and Christianity, which lend themselves to opposition, juxtaposes the enlightened transcendentalism of Emerson’s presence, a style that Stone emanates throughout her poetry in words and images. Peter recalls his childhood: “His brother Andrew stopped fishing and asked/Jesus again, this time in prayer, “what good is/this for many?” The questioning of biblical miracles is a bold choice for Stone to take in the south or for parents who appear conservative in this current political climate (“My dad says, build/a wall, build a wall.), where the Bible is nothing short of a life-commanding text, but for a poet whose life has been riddled with hardship with which no god or deity interfered. “On the Anniversary of My Mother’s Death” is just one of Stone’s references to her mother in such a way, where the misery of losing her mother is both a metaphor and a harrowing reality from which God did not spare her. The pinnacle of this desensitization comes from her poem “Against Faith,” whose very title warns us for the next words: “I’m not building/anymore, I don’t care…Sadness comes without beckon./All winners eventually cheat.”

Stone’s Knock-Off Monarch is for any human finding their place among the heavily-trodden terrain of opinions, ideologies, emotions, and judgments of others while establishing that of your own. Stone is a knock-off monarch because she knows what she is and knows what she is not, but she explains herself in a way that already exists to everyone else. After reading it, the reader realizes we are all, in one way or another, knock-offs of the stunning beautiful butterfly which we long to become.


review by A.H. Lewis


book is available here:



Crystal Stone’s poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in PHEMME, Better than Starbucks, peculiar, Sport Literate, Collective Unrest, Driftwood Press, New Verse News, Occulum, Anomaly, BONED, Eunoia Review, {isacoustic*}, Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online and Dylan Days. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Iowa State University, gave a TEDx talk on poetry the first week of April and her first collection of poetry, Knock-Off Monarch (Dawn Valley Press) is available now on Amazon. In her free time, she edits poetry and writes poetry book reviews for Flyway: Journal of Environmental Writing. You can find her on Twitter @justlikeastone8 and on instagram @stone.flowering or at her website: http://www.crystalbstone.com.


A.H. Lewis is the author of forthcoming poetry collection The Smallness of Everything Else (Dorrance Publishing, spring 2019) and graduated from Allegheny College with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Her work can currently be found on her social media pages as well as being featured on various poetry accounts and a publication in Royal Rose Magazine.

Twitter: @AllyyLewis
Instagram: @ahlewww

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