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.’
[IT IS IMPORTANT YOU SELECT A CODE FITTING FOR THE SITUATION]
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.