Publication Date:  August 1, 2017
Paperback, 100 pages
ISBN:  978-1-937968-37-3
Booksellers:  Available from
Small Press Distribution
Kristina Marie Darling is the
author of twenty-seven books of
poetry, most recently
Ghost /
(with John Gallaher) and
the forthcoming
Dark Horse. Her
awards include three residencies at
Yaddo, where she has held the Martha
Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet, as
well as a Hawthornden Castle
Fellowship, a Fundacion Valparaiso
Fellowship, and three residencies at
the American Academy in Rome.  
She is the recipient of grants from the
Whiting Foundation and Harvard
University’s Kittredge Fund.  Her
poems appear in
New American
, The Harvard Review, The
Mid-American Review
, Poetry
, Passages North,
Nimrod, and many other magazines.
She has published essays in
Agni, The
Gettysburg Review
, The Los Angeles
Review of Books
, The Iowa Review,
The Literary Review, The Kenyon
, and elsewhere. She is Editor-
in-Chief of
Tupelo Quarterly,
Associate Editor-in-Chief at Tupelo
Press, and a contributing writer at
Publishers Weekly.
In this new poetry collaboration from Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess, the
real estate phenomenon of “home staging” becomes a metaphor for the illusions, and
dissolution, of marriage.  Or more broadly, of modern life in general, of lives not lived
but “curated”, everything transpiring and shared in real time that seems ever less real.  
The title of one section is especially telling, drawing upon the realtor cliché to
“Depersonalize Your Home” – a process that must necessarily destroy any notion of
“home” in favor of creating a fictive space, the detritus of messy human lives
brushed aside to make room for artifice, for fantasy.  On many pages this takes the
form of footnotes that suggest an absurd invisible narrative, revealed only in
fragments that do not make up a whole – in itself another apt metaphor.  This
collection is often funny, but in the wry wincing way of experiences that make a
good story to recount years after, once survived.  To turn these pages is to open the
door on a tableau presented by two richly imaginative poets who know where to set
each piece for the maximum effect – even if they may leave you looking for a way
out of this dream home.

Praise for Instructions for Staging:

These prose poems are loaded with far more than 21 secrets for staging a home: so
many footnotes, curios, erasures, appendices; so many ways to lose oneself, one’s
partner, one’s lover. A marriage comes undone “like a key made of soap” as does a
house for sale boasting a “mysterious chiffonier” with endless drawers and a spiral
staircase that “is actually a dragon’s mouth.” Reading it is like facing a deluge with a
dishtowel—one is never as prepared as one initially thought to miss the strange
    —Timothy Carlo Matos, author of
Counting Sheep Till Doomsday

Weaving the jargon of real estate with the language of divorce, Kristina Marie
Darling and Carol Guess create a book that is equal parts black humor and human
insight through the juxtaposition of new-home optimism and the dissolution of the
narrators' relationship.
Instructions for Staging shows us the dynamism of their
collaboration:  inventive and bittersweet, resulting in a darkly playful read.

    —Robin F. Brox, author of
Sure Thing

In eloquent yet conversational lines seething with nostalgia, the solitary broodings on
love’s impermanence in
Instructions for Staging wiretap as much into the secrets we
keep from one another as ourselves. “My favorite sound is my name in your mouth,”
muses the conceited husband, whose infidelities the wife tackles with the same rage
& patience as the mayo he smears over cabinets while sleepwalking. A bloodbath
lurks throughout & even household objects are endowed with danger: mail is slit
open, phonograph needles are “poised to kill.” Calmly & quietly, we are invited to
pick the locks with soap & kitchen knives—to break & enter & eavesdrop into the
quiet desperation of a modern American marriage in shambles: “Turn your head
without turning your eyes.”

    —Scott Alexander Jones, author of
elsewhere &
That Finger on Your Temple is the Barrel of My Raygun             
for Staging
Poetry by
Kristina Marie
Darling &
Carol Guess
Cover art by Melissa T. Hall, used by permission.
Book designed by Jonathan Greene
Carol Guess is the author of numerous
books of poetry and prose, including
Studies: Forensics
and Tinderbox Lawn.
In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian
Award for Distinguished Literary
Achievement by Columbia University. A
frequent collaborator, she teaches in the
MFA program at Western Washington