Friday, August 10, 2012

Desiring Map, Megan Kaminski

Here is my desiring map
            dragonflies in the hinterlands
            coal in the hills and words beneath
            tongues swollen with language
            feet tired of motion

we placed small rocks
patterned dunes across a sloping swath
            spread songs out to the bay

teach us to chart the tides
            orange and pink coated
            buildings partake in the smoggy dusk
                                    painted roof beams
                                    foundations cleared of ivy (“across soft ruins”)

Kansas writer Megan Kaminksi’s first trade poetry collection, Desiring Map (Atlanta GA: Coconut Books, 2012), is constructed out of four sequences – across soft ruins, the prairie opens wide, carry catastrophe and favored daughter. Considering that her list of four poetry chapbooks also authored by her at the back of the collection include three of the four section titles, it would be safe to say that the sections in the trade book came directly from these small publications. This could suggest a number of things, including an ability to work in chapbook-length structures that haven’t yet evolved into book-length structures, or that her ongoing work to date is easily part of a single construction that has happened to fit neatly into the trade book package. Might it even be larger? Perhaps the book manuscript came first, and was portioned out to chapbook publishers, as smaller units? Toronto writer Kevin Connolly’s first trade poetry collection, Asphalt Cigar (Toronto ON: Coach House Press, 1995), was also created out of a series of chapbooks, before his subsequent trade books shifted into different kinds of book-length compositional units. Does it matter that I still consider this first book of his my favourite, and possibly his most interesting? (Others might not agree with me on such.) Either way, it would be hard to discern what exactly Kaminski’s unit of composition yet is, with only a first collection.

There is a meditative quality to these poems, one you could easily get lost in, suggesting the same quality Peter Van Toorn wrote about, seeing the poem in the thing for miles. Kaminski’s is a desiring density, a long, deep sketch of a prairie map that stretches out quite a ways. Kaminski’s poem-sequences feel as though they are constructed out of a series of accumulations, as phrase set down upon phrase, poem set down upon poem, until a sequence is completed, each line adding another kind of detail, as in this first piece from the section/sequence “the prairie opens wide,” that reads:

Wednesdays bring me down
people moving through them like traffic
I tried to sing a new song
I made it like the Arc de Triomphe
my voice wavered with vibrato
strung bees around the throat
it deflected cars vespers and foot traffic
but her main advice was develop an accent
spread myself across late August days
sink hips into the Kansas River

Towards the end of the collection, Kaminksi writes her “Approaching drenched in forms,” working up to the final poem, “The house was,” and reminding any reader just how much this is a book of the outdoors, composing expansive lines that open “The house was not so exquisite / functional furry woodland / floor to catch rain,” and, two pages further:

Snow wrapped compartments give way
to crafted nests nestled in crooks
the configured arrangements of interiors
                          occupy our time
I will consider your cat or the swallow
spent limbs waver under interrogation
in past days we wore green shoes
and sought a cure for remembrance
by marking lines on tabletops

1 comment:

Solid Quarter said...

WHY are you always beating me to the punch?