Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Kate Greenstreet, The Last 4 Things

I was going to drive a train across the country.

And then a ship, across the sea.

She came to see me off. It was a little caboose

that I was driving. She asked me what was wrong.

I told her

that I’d had a dream. The ship was going to sink.

She said: “Remember—when you were a boy?

And we used to do the Magic of Believing?” (“The Last 4 Things”)

Recently (and finally) out by American poet Kate Greenstreet is her second poetry collection, The Last 4 Things (Boise Idaho: Ahsahta Press, 2009), a follow-up to her first collection, case sensitive (Boise Idaho: Ahsahta Press, 2006) [see my review of such here]. From her first collection to this recent work, her poetry has read almost as a larger, single unit, much in the way of bpNichol, Robert Kroetsch or Fanny Howe. It’s as though Greenstreet is writing the “poem as long as a life,” and composing each project as an extension of everything else she has previously done, existing as a single somewhat or completely unified whole. How does her poetry manage so much in such a compact space, turning out as many directions, almost, as there are words? Working directions through her tangents, through her contradictions, sharp and shocking, Greenstreet’s is a poetry that fills and fulfills with every subsequent reading. Does it become greedy to wish that she was producing more?

What I wanted, it wasn’t for remembering. A broken liquid, like blood. The “next” with the description of how big it really is. Dear friend, don’t be from the past.

Once we went under a tree, to get out of the rain—a thick tree, we waited there for a while. That day, I don’t think anybody cried.

Later, walking down the road. I still have the knife in my hand, but now it isn’t made of gold. Punctuation’s a resemblance question: latent, suppressed, subliminal, sleeping. Sometimes there’s a word that can’t be used. Dormant, inherent, instinctive, involuntary. Listen, keep in touch, I know you won’t. the most vulnerable moment is the moment of the change. Four frames. Hold the strip to the light, “the higher plane.” Released the shutter, what I wanted from a picture.

My wish is—I see now. That mesh.

Must be as strong as bullets. (“The Last 4 Things”)

With the long poem “The Last 4 Things” taking up the bulk of the collection, the second section, “56 Days,” reads like an abstract journal, almost like the “utanikki,” or poetic diary, done by such as Nichol and Fred Wah, such as her piece “11 December,” that writes:

The bedlam of fatigue.

Sheep? in the middle of the city? This is the dream I have


When they explain what they’ve learned about sleep, they never

tell the part I need to know.

“One snowy night.” When I hold the baby.

When I hold the baby I feel so good. I never felt so good.

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