Thursday, June 14, 2018

Kerri Webster, The Trailhead

Do not say I am insensible. Here is the demon trapped under glass, and here I am, demiurge of the simulacrum, having given him universe within universe: ground (carpet), sky (jarred air), and above, this heaven through which I move unfettered, buying lubricants, eating pomegranates, each return to the windowless room revealing him still here, my rash action perhaps once its own apologia yet this is no longer that; grown deliberate, the truth is I am afraid, amygdala by coincidence or design about the size of him and lit, his body coded in my genome, become muscle memory the way, when I’ve come for a man once, I come more readily for him again, control being thus illusion, yes? What is good and what is craven war inside me, given as I am to sensate bondage, profligate, sugared, respondent to the slightest touch. I type long into the night, let beloveds enter as blips of light, drink too much wine. Perhaps he is unkillable; perhaps, as my desert foremothers swore, he possessed a pre-mortal existence to which he will return—and if he feels no hurry, who among us can fault him? Sweet realm of stars and honey— (“Towards An Ethical Religiosity”)

There is something of the third full-length poetry title from Boise, Idaho poet Kerri Webster, The Trailhead (Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2018), that could be encapsulated into the last quarter of the single-stanza poem “This Is Manifest,” that reads:

I was a woman of such secret knowledge
as you may think mad.
I don’t know why, when we die,
all our skulls aren’t jeweled.
Sometimes I was so enamored of sky
I felt my milk might come in.

Searching for information on Webster, a poet I hadn’t previously heard of [although I realized I wrote about her previously, here], I’m surprised to see so little online (including any potential interviews), especially given that this is her third collection, following We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (University of Georgia Press, 2005) and Grand & Arsenal (University of Iowa Press, 2012). There is such a force displayed in the poems in The Trailhead, one that writes on sexuality and power, meditating on larger concerns around ethics, from stories of spinsters, conversion, religion, righteous action, desire, wilderness and poetry. Webster’s poems flood their narratives with discomfort, and an unease that can’t be turned away from, taking stock of the climate and providing insight into the unexamined. As she writes to close the poem “One Eye Dilated”: “It has taken me forever to be obedient to the beautiful, rather than the easy, things.”

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