Tuesday, February 13, 2007

In No One's Land by Paige Ackerson-Kiely

Another from Ahsahta Press is 2006 Sawtooth Poetry Prize winner (as judged by D.A. Powell) a first poetry collection from Lincoln, Vermont poet Paige Ackerson-Kiely, In No One's Land (Boise ID: Ahsahta Press, 2007). There is a particular kind of language I find enviable in Ackerson-Kiely's writing, a way of electrifying the world, and something that comes out more fully in her prose (but is more subtle in her poetry), especially in the two-page "Biography" and "Author's Statement" included with the press release that ends with "You are beautiful, and I don’t need you. That should take some pressure off us both."

How could you not love any piece of writing that begins "I was born in Biddeford, Maine, at the behest of my parents in October of 1975." and also includes "I thought I was on track to study Asylum Law, but was reorganized by youthful pregnancy and the thrum of filial responsibility. I began to write poetry when my babies were, well, babies as a way to amass privacy and some sense of independence from my role as the go-to." (both from her "Biography"). Yet, as much as I love her prose, the poems in her collection In No One's Land are the ones that aren’t the prose-poems but the other pieces, working her subtle edge through line break and the breathless pause.

The Potential of Rapture

I locked up all
of the beautiful things
that might move me.

The bell around a dark ankle
turning and turning.

A stranger smiles.
Her face is no curling-up
in bed.

If I knew the world was going
to end, I'd just run out into
the street and fuck the first
chick I saw, says
a teenage virgin.

Where you go when you are scared

that we might have the verdant
and the humid. Friendly air.
People meaning their handwaves.
An answer is the way you can jump
from a ledge equal to your height
without getting hurt.
Your home.
Every pane of glass

someone laid on their precious
breath. There.
Or there.

Boy I am
leaving too many rooms
for the crowded street. Lay
down your sweet head
for now

to know as we do know
to know. To know
one damn thing. (pp 31-2)

Ackerson-Kiely's poems seem to write a kind of distance through landscape and the body, writing through relationships with liquor store clerks, Foucault, various men and the spring thaw with a combination of heartfelt and even rapturous desire and arms-length trauma; these are poems about how much the narrator will allow herself, even in the finest moments. Even in the darkest moments.

Spring Thaw

Spring with your disheveled mouths beginning
to open. Glad I am for doorways.
For a simple frame.

In winter I allow you to guess correctly
that I was sleeping. The paw of me
placed over the snout of me. My friends
the dead flowers in a windowbox
nowhere I knew where my friends were.

I allow you to guess correctly. The confidence
you will gain will make speaking—
a tomcat sprays the dogwood—blooming.

Hello. I was forgotten. When my jaw at first
unlocks I will say no one has loved me as much. (p 23)

In her "Author's Statement," she writes that her "[e]arly attempts at writing were anonymous letters relegated to paramours through inter-campus mail. They were thrilling to compose, and left me feeling fully independent of their subject—desire, and the body, worship and godliness, and I will say that when I began writing poetry in earnest, about 5 yeas ago, the thrill of that independence returned." Her biography ends with "I am currently working on a second book of poems, loosely based on the writing of Epicurus, tentatively titled The One-Life Theory, and a novel about infanticide." As much as I am looking forward to that second poetry collection, it is the novel, based on the prose from the press release, that really intrigues.

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