The Shadowgraph

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In The Shadowgraph, a book of poems, James Cihlar explores the ways images, performances, and memories shape and inform LGBTQ+ identity. Golden-age Hollywood cinema—in particular the career of fiercely independent actress Barbara Stanwyck—provides the screen on which Cihlar projects characters and stories bravely, even defiantly, performed. Cihlar's commentary on individual films—as well as on human experience and desire—is intense, smart, and right on target.

University of New Mexico Press: March 1, 2020 | Paperback: 88 pages


About the Author

James Cihlar is the publisher of Howling Bird Press. He is also the author of Rancho Nostalgia and Undoing.


"These poems have chunks of John Ashbery-like inscrutability and pinches of the movie-crazed Frank O'Hara. . . .The second half of the book consists of poems under titles of movies starring Stanwyck. Wonderfully witty as viewing companions, they function on other levels, too. . . . Employing first-, second-, and third-person pronouns, Cihlar twines intriguingly into and out of movies, probing them for pathos and comedy, opposites and doubles. Cihlar convinces us that we want our screen idols to bestow us with emotional takeaways, however fleeting or mysterious. . . . It's fun when Cihlar unleashes his unguarded fanboy, as in 'The Furies': 'When Stanwyck casts aside pearls/ for diamonds, it changes the air/ in the theater. When she rides her horse/ to the squatter's fort/ and warns her Mexican lover/ she wrings the neck of eloquence.' Pop culture meets pathos in The Shadowgraph, a stirring paean to movie idols who flicker across the screen and sometimes show up in the mirror."
—Claude Peck, "The Stanwyck Mystique," The Gay & Lesbian Review, July/August 2020
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