Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Kim Rosenfield, Phantom Captain


Americans are terrible readers of anything as old and complex as a 1757 work on how sublime and beautiful changes upset our lives and become traumatic ideologies getting crowded out by a future like Manners Maketh the Man. We didn’t fall for World War wit. Humor of the forbidden went on and on and we had to function with creative tensions that produced emotional intensity

My attitude should become more like my way of describing great observations. I need to know, from all the whatnot that gets in my way of thinking, about what is going on. That’s when I’ll finally have insight into what is bothering my characters

World War wit is based on forbidden reciprocity that stands above political thinking’s shoulder. “Peace without Victory” is lacking in triumphalism. Here I am thinking of war as a problem to be solved by not joining either side (“Former Present Times”)

The latest by Brooklyn poet Kim Rosenfield [see her recent ’12 or 20 questions’ interview here], and the first of hers I’ve seen, winner of the Ottoline prize, is Phantom Captain (Astoria NY: Fence Books, 2023). Set in six numbered, extended sections—“Longing Crosses the Sea,” “Former Present Times,” “Aesthetics of the Invisible Realm,” “Natures Afterward Hours,” “It’s Been an Almost Hysterical Test of My Mettle” and “The Great Empty Goodnight”—her lyric sextet engages in an unfurling, extending page across page of examination and poem-as-elegy, offering a book of presence and self-examination. “I am as American as suffering.” she writes, as part of the second section. “Born from an epidemic of people who like to eat sugar for a high and make ineptitude fun, who are not yet social enough to understand pathological hatred is making history the wrong approach [.]” The lyric sweeps of Phantom Captain work to articulate what refuses the fixed point, offering a sweep across a body, and a thinking, very much in motion. “My changes are rapid enough to defy recognition.” she writes, as part of the opening section. Slightly earlier, offering: “In this very identity / Sits a pleasurable condition / Void of wishes [.]” This is a collection that begins at the self and ripples outward, slowly, one ring, one sentence, one fragment-accumulation at a time, from cultural capital to disinformation, political action and communal responsibility, and how the ego responds and reacts, allowing the language of her lyrics to fold in on themselves. “We tear at our wounds on Vita Instagram,” she writes, as part of the fifth section, “When I slide / It is a deep dark / Hallucinogenic hole / A gourmet donut / Round how I’ve failed / At life at birth / At wisdom at hedging [.]” Or, as the final fragment of the collection offers:

What is required to come to life?
is from the performance?
is contact at odds with delivering
these opposites
which are so much everywhere
my personality statues
my barbaric natural body’s way to consolidate
a careful commodity that is not containing anything
that is not a vessel for anything
but a sensory smatter of self-hood some people never get together
as in what does it mean that I can’t take a lifetime
in this aggravating acceleration
to say
what I


No comments: