Barrelhouse Reviews: All the Water All the Waves, by Kallie Falandays

Review by Sierra Dickey

I love a good internet rabbit hole, and I have the utmost respect for the sites that happen to send me down them. dancing girl press, publisher of Kallie Falandays’ All the Water All the Waves, is one of those sites. Make a visit to their Tumblr only if you have a few minutes to spare and a bit of space for new woman poets in your life.

Falandays’ rushing (as in rainwater), rhythmic (as in waves) chapbook of prose poems is the kind of writing that’s stinking rich with woman poet forebears and their impulses. Falandays conjures Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton as unnamed but highly present forces that hum and surge in her work like characters you need in life but can’t stand to have at dinner:

“She could barely sit at the table, and anyway, even if she could, everyone else would leave because think about it, would you sit next to rolling thunder?”

While past female greats are present here, the poet is not in the business of making paeans. Indeed, Falandays prefaces the line where I most sensed Plath with: “This is not her story.”

“She was drowned in an oven. But before that, she suckled ocean through a straw.”

All the Water All the Waves is the story of “woman” the protagonist, and “Man,” who appears rarely as her torturer. He who “plugs her in but doesn’t turn her on.” Assumedly human, “woman” spends most of her time cycling through life as an object. In one particularly visceral section (p. 11) she is wood being turned into paper:

“She remembered the basic raw material, the remembered de-barking, the collision, the collection, oh oh the heat.”

It’s certainly not always a cake walk to live as a human woman these days and the life of objects that Falandays describes are not pleasant either. Besides paper, woman spends times as a dinner plate, a whatnot, a gadget, a flashlight, and a cellphone. Despite wanting “to be anything you love to hold and look at,” incarnation as these palpable everyday objects does not get her what she wants. Instead of care and caressing, she gets dusty. She goes hollow. She was left alone and “shuddered in the cabinet when it stormed.” 

There is desperation here, and an aching sense of being captured or imprisoned in each physical thing. Blessedly, woman only spends time as one thing to break and become another. You’ll be relieved to know that “sad little curio” is not her final destination. Instead, the transformations quicken towards the end of the chapbook to rip woman from the realm of objects into actual states of being:

“woman shook the cage apart with her trembling, became open, became morning,”

After what feels like long last but is actually only 22 pages, we have blooming! Woman has finally shook and trembled and wobbled herself out of this cruel cruel cabinet-like place. And though I’m unsure whether or not Falandays means for the tough lives of these objects to embody the “dirty hiding spots” of the modern female experience, I am sure that I felt most moved and excited by the power of her transitions and the weight they accumulated at book’s end. Through all the betterment by breaking here, Falandays is saying (in stanzas that will shake your bones) that to make an omelet, one must break a few damn eggs.


Sierra Dickey lives and works in Brattleboro, VT.