Wednesday, January 17, 2024



I dream of a snow-covered field full of schoolchildren and friends all of us off from work and schooling there are prizes if you make it around the track balancing on your skis as if on a snowboard and as I try this out I have to shout to my students and friends, Stephen is among them, to go left, left, a little bit more left so I don’t fall, I almost make it but wipe out at the last second and Patrice has brought specialty candles we can use to light small patterns of Greek fire on the lake


then Patrice and Matty are wiping down everyone’s hands with turmeric before they enter the house (“Kissing Other People or The House of Fame”)

The latest from New York City-based poet, essayist and editor Kay Gabriel is KISSING OTHER PEOPLE OR THE HOUSE OF FAME (New York NY: Nightboat Books, 2023), following A Queen in Bucks County (Nightboat Books, 2022) as well as We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (edited with Andrea Abi-Karam; Nightboat Books, 2020) [see my review of such here]. KISSING OTHER PEOPLE OR THE HOUSE OF FAME is a collection constructed out of seven extended, epistolary lyrics, perpetually unfurling into an incredibly wide-ranging sequence of lyrics and prose blocks. Offering echoes of Bernadette Mayer for their shared diaristic/journal lyric impulse, Gabriel’s is one that attends to a particular nuance of dream-scape and lived daily life, existing almost as counterpoint to the clipped flaneur of a Frank O’Hara; through Gabriel, the ordinary, the intimate and the internal is entirely the point, and by itself, is magical. As she writes to close the prose poem “Five Dollar Drive”: “I begin revisions with a grievance. Did I mean grief? My breasts spill out in a waiting room where I am at pains to produce edits on a draft. I reproduce my nausea at market – I call it inventive.”

Built out of seven poems that increase in size and scale as the collection progresses—“Year Zeroes,” “’STOFFWECHSEL’,” “Five Dollar Drive,” “A Less Exciting Personism for the Less Fabulously Employed,” “Blind Item,” “Goodnight, Rimbaud,” which sit from one to eight pages in length, to the sixty-five page “Kissing Other People or the House of Fame”—the shorter poems are relatively contained, compared to the expansive quality of the final poem, assembled as a sequence of dream-blocks. As the sequence “Blind Item” includes, near the end of the second section: “CREAM OF THE CROP, Private Bureaucrat: What’s the big idea? Which among you frequents the state capital? Show me some plastic! Thisform belongs to another decade! What is the glyph beneath your port of entry stamp? Who sews the pants? Who lays the tracks? Who sets this thing in motion?” Gabriel writes a sequence of declarations about and for pop stars, from well-known writers, actors and musicians, composing a dream-sequence of self-contained but sequential bursts, running against an accumulation of narratives, seeking and seeking out. “Beforehand I dream that the scientist mom from A Wrinkle in Time is a lesbian,” she writes, as part of the title sequence, “and that one of the transdimensional middle-aged witches moves into her house and becomes her lover for thirty years, after she dies or disappears I must go through her boxes to sort and discard her possessions and books during which time I learn the whole story of the affair from the mild heroic daughter [.]”


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