Monday, June 18, 2007

Kate Greenstreet, Case Sensitive

Every other day Kate Greenstreet blogs over at Kickingwind. She has also curated a series of first book interviews. A daunting, and exciting, list of new books appearing daily. Daunting because one wonders how one will ever get to them all, and exciting of course because one will attempt. The first book interviews would make an interesting study in themselves...I've written several posts on common threads I have noticed, but ultimately deleted those findings for others to discover on their own.

"Where there is injury/Where there is doubt" Kate Greenstreet deadpans in her own first book, revealing a trajectory very unlike many of the poets with first books these days. A long view, a fragmented journey, a perspective outside of the MFA womb, outside even, of a larger poetic net, and yet directly in conversation with it.

"Things got complicated," she says in "Where's the Body?" And they do. They did. They are. Poems intersect themselves, veer off, usually into further investigation or self-reflection. A poetic as much about disassembly as wonder, and hardly concerned with crafting itself to be lost within certain pages of certain journals. Stubbornly original. This makes its own journal.
Ate a teaspoon of plain dirt a day.
Changed her name to save her life,
to
deepen the channel.
What channel? "Reeds pushed up by waves," she continues, "Suspicious trash."
The visualized
bones
are unremarkable.
Yet, the idea: "earned the right to speak."
Indeed, if an idea had the right to speak, not in a particular form, or even with the awareness of that choice, or limitation, however you might describe it, how would it sound? How without us? Impossible to trace the idea, but possible to trace the handling of it. "Leave openings," she says simply at the beginning of "Book of Love."

Here again from "Dusting for prints:"
If you feel you can no longer pray, personally, I like trees, birds.

Personal & unintelligible, my addiction bores me.
We still need spoons, plates, and knives. Bowls. Your star sign.
Those weeks with you?

I remember driving you somewhere. Driving, and it was snowy.
Nothing was figured out.
You said redemption looked like a painting of fire, after a fire.

What one quickly becomes aware of, as Charles Alexander points out beautifully, is the intense thinking involved here:
I looked through the book, pretty quickly, noting 37 instances of this cluster of an idea, although primarily, 30 instances, specifically of one of these words: think, thinks, thinking, thought. In a book of 100 pages of poetry (more than that many pages in the book, but when I subtract title pages, section titles, notes, etc., it's just about 100 pages of poetry), this can't, I think, be insignificant.
Part detective, all artist, Greenstreet is out and in the world, and like the poets she refers to (Lorine Niedicker, Fanny Howe), she is surgical in her view, slicing specimens, crafting hybrid images and tossing herself, her perspective into foreign landscapes (or making the familiar foreign):
Ice, it gets under your feet
You don't know it's there.
I was thinking of Keats, Beaudelaire.
I was thinking of boys.
Nothing is taken for granted but instability and inquiry. Even when the subject MUST certainly be autobiographical, as in "The Purpose of Discouragement:"
By the time I arrived, it was too late to see the lawyer. I found the house without trouble. It was so friendly and plain. The porch light was on. I went up and looked into the mailbox, and there was the key to the door, in an envelope...
Never mind that we are told in the beginning to "imagine a movie in which every five minutes there's a still," and no matter that we get "I was visiting my mother in jail and ran into Perry Mason in the hall..." I want to believe this is real.

I haven't even begun to talk about the incredible series of poems, "Salt" which, like Steven's Blackberry poem offers variations on the idea, and concrete reality of salt--table salt, salt on roads, little pigs of salt? Surprising volcanoes of salt. Think you've thought about it? There are associations here I've yet to make.

There are many ways to poetry. Thank god. So how do we encourage them? Other ways I mean, not just the predictable, and not the quick. The new, the young, the first...how about the layered, the thoughtful, the unpredictable? Greenstreet's text seems to ask that. And perhaps even offer an answer.

Meanwhile we see new work from Greenstreet on Fascicle, and in that new work a melding of her visual artist self. And a small chapbook called Rushes, from above/ground which is the most polished "physical" production I've seen from that press yet.

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