‘MISE EN ABTME’ by Luke Kennard – Tungsten Press

I am not a significant collector of limited-edition, hand-crafted poetry pamphlets, but I have a few from across many years. My most cherished is Peter Reading’s Shitheads – designed, made and published by Michael Caine [read more here]. I am not going to account for the others – not even a ‘best of’ – but would stress that they range from the simple/straightforward to more complex, and all are equally pleasing for being tactile, carefully produced/presented and a special focus from and for each writer.

I was therefore pleased to receive yesterday my latest, Luke Kennard’s MISE EN ABYME, via Jett. W. Whitehead, Bay City, Michigan, and designed by C.W. Swets at Tungsten Press, The Netherlands [there’s the geography]. Typefaces and papers and cover material and stitching are of further interest if you wish to search out details online. For me, I enjoy the simplicity of seeing and touching this, but first it is the unwrapping from the careful packaging and that initial seeing.

Sounds a bit fetishist, I know. But I have just recalled and typed quite calmly. Really.

Contents are as critical, clearly, and I haven’t ordered any such pamphlets/presentations without knowing the poets’ work. I’ve reviewed Luke Kennard once before [here] and have other of his poetry collections so I knew what kind of innovative and enjoyable writing I would be getting: this linked to a personal liking for prose poems so I was especially looking forward to reading the 19 in this collection.

They are teasing, funny and sometimes provoking.

As with other reviews of late from me, what follows is a flavour of this particular book’s delightful contents, prose poems that occupy mystery and the oblique with humour and introspection as well as conversational to lyrical storytellings of this, and more:

In GREY ROCK, the grey rock methodology gets a fond delineation that traces effect and impact through domesticity referencing and the beauty of an idea; in CRISIS MEANS DECISION MEANS JUDGMENT we read how a head injury leads to confusion over whether a head injury ever existed – and that goes for the ducks as well, and in NEW INSIGHT INTO HOW ENDANGERED SPECIES ARE MAKING DRASTIC CHANGES TO THEIR LIFESTYLES there is a knowing mix of factual detail, tender urgings to a grey whale and occasions of that lyrical wrapping already mentioned to push us as readers through its questioning to a concluding [possibly concluding] exasperation.

I think I have mentioned before on this blog because it annoys the hell out of me, but in a world where anyone who is being interviewed on TV and asked a question about an unusual/special experience they have actually experienced – I mean in real life and literally, factually not figuratively – and the reply is always the awe-eyed expression ‘it was/is surreal’, we get within the many prose poem narratives collected here a genuine and so much more delightful encapsulation of this otherwise descriptive all-embrace, like,

‘I blew away the catkins which had collected in the dent of my fedora and told them I could tell the difference between one piano showroom and another – what did they take me for? I had to memorise a sad piano line to play to my contact.’


There are similar and different treats throughout the rest of this collection, for example, the questioning insights from ‘The Oracle of The High Fantasy Landscape In The Heart’ [A DEFECT OF THE LANDSCAPE], and there is extrapolation on a hymn’s post-pause in TO SEE THE TASK, TO SET ABOUT IT where loneliness, lunching/dining on oxtail soup, and making an observation on the amount of support bars in a home provide a palpable pathos to the mystery of its storytelling. In TRUE STORY OF MY OWN DEATH #4, what is ‘spread on the beach’ is just like what is spread throughout these unravelling tales – the poetic dissection and disembowelling and playing with the entrails of reality to present another kind, though that is a generalising exaggeration to bounce off this poem’s moribund-made-michievous metaphor.

Anyway, I’m just off to wash my hands for another read, all part of the careful procedure [no, not fetish] when reading such an engaging hand-crafted poetry pamphlet like this.

1 thought on “‘MISE EN ABTME’ by Luke Kennard – Tungsten Press

  1. Pingback: Poetry Reviewed 2019 | gravyfromthegazebo

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