Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Megan Kaminski, Deep City

We implore you exhale city smoke and invite us
within garneted sanctuary damp caven
architectures making way    songs and bodies
rending walls porous to sound silken soiled
mothers dreaming northern passages coiling
silver wire skeletal mild beneath the unexhumed
night sulfur traces sully duchess-cut dresses
shape us into other sizes other emanations

Kansas poet Megan Kaminski’s second poetry collection, Deep City (Las Cruces NM: Noemi Press, 2015), is a suite of poems exploring a series of collisions—where language, the body and geography interact—composed in a dense lyric. Set in three sections—“The Cities,” “Apocrypha” and “Collection”—there is a structural echo back to her first full-length book, Desiring Map (Atlanta GA: Coconut Books, 2012) [see my review of such here], a suite built out of four chapbook-length sections. Given that Kaminski has come into book construction from years of producing small chapbooks (including with above/ground press), the evolution makes sense (I compared her first collection to Kevin Connolly’s Asphalt Cigar, which also did the same), but there is something about the way that Kaminski manages to connect the sections in both collections, all of which could easily stand on their own, into something else, made stronger for the grouping. As opposed to some who have simply connected chapbook-length works into an arbitrary book-size, Kaminski appears to be composing book-length works out of shorter sections.

As chief cartographer for the city
he maps systems
                                                                    simple things
                        subways   freeway exits   migratory patterns
                              diseased trees    fashionable restaurants
                      lost dreams   displaced tenants   spent hours
                                    he would grow with the company

catalogs stolen memories
models the depths of the bay
presses his ear to the wall and listens for coordinates (“As chief cartographer for the city”)

As well, with all of her published work to date, Kaminski is a cartographer-poet, and in Deep City, she sketches an intricately-detailed series of maps across sleep, memory, history and urban spaces (both real and imagined) as well as the often-overlooked minutae of the world, from finger-traces in the dirt to industrial spaces and the city-breath of smoke. The first section of Deep City, “The Cities,” a sequence of short lyrics, is composed as a love song (a love that can’t help but be complicated) to those urban spaces, as she writes: “dear city I want to crawl inside your chest / ply rib by rib by rib and slip soft / extol your innerworks colder sounds [.]” The second section, “Apocrypha,” a collection of short poems, stretches the density of her language across the page, writing out, in the section’s title poem, “there was something genealogical about it / silence saying yes or no you see // I have another distinct memory / of sleeping on a rooftop / under an enormous sky [.]” The third and final section, “Collection,” is a curious blend of the two, constructed out of what appears to be a sequence of untitled poems, with a couple of stand-alone poems, each titled, set within. Kaminski is quite skilled and packing an enormous amount into the lyric, allowing her lines to fragment and retain both connection and tension while allowing breath and space pauses between; akin to skipping stones across the surface of water, the ripples are long and deeply felt.

In my city   glass beads line women’s necks
sun-bloated squares house apartments
music streams through shuttered balconies in summer

                                    it wasn’t simply that her love was objectifying
                                                            we all have things that sparkle

checks mail Friday because of Monday’s holiday
visitors’ feet keep us awake on those nights

enter the code   three flights   knock twice (“We stood atop Janiculum Hill”)

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