I'm a newcomer to the poetry of Laura Kasischke, and finally picked up a copy of Space, in Chains, her eighth collection (not to mention 6 novels, and two YA novels). What's interesting is the rapid variability of her line, which breaks completely free of neo-formalist constraints yet still seems to retain its music. She's her own thing, completely, and I like that. Sometimes the lines are short, metaphorical meditations, and at other points she's in the middle of a prose passage, all in the same poem. This affords her a great deal of lyrical mobility, and everything seems to be available to her. I caught myself more than once thinking of Dickinson, her daily preoccupations, her private thoughts about the incidents of life, a moment of looking into the garden and what does she have? What else, but a little magnificent song. Knells in the halls, and at the end of one, a fallen vase, a tulip like a limbless doll. A still life, with broken glass and bees.
The first two sections of this three section book I found myself trying hard to navigate new territory. I stumbled, and swam, and swam when I should have hiked, and hiked where I should have swum. I had the distinct feeling I was camping back in the Colorado watershed, and the first few climbs were difficult, but by the third morning I understood how to pace myself, and climb, and stop, and breathe, and I found a lake high in the mountains, and my brother and I lay down on the flat rocks in it and let the door open up inside of us, where the red beating filled each of us in our own separate grave-site, with our eyes closed and the sunlight furiously far off.
By the third section of Kasischke's book I was trying to tear out every page, to hide it, crush it in a pocket and find it to read again, and find that same amazement. Dickinson, and also, strangely, Frederick Seidel. I can't explain it, these mighty twins.
These kinds of sentiments are why I'm writing this blog, and not an essay.
Here's a poem from the book, that I want more of:
The Pleasure Center
It was tucked for us into the hypothalamus. Thank you, our lopped-off heads
rolling all around the earth. Thank you, radio, movies, booze.
And thank you, too, racquetball court, video game, throbbing bass in the car
at the stoplight as it pulls up next to ours.
Little fragment of a magnet.
Shrapnel in the attic.
Child on a bike.
Old woman on her knees beneath a suffering Jesus.
ADULT SUPERSTORE NEXT EXIT!
All of it crammed into a thing the size of a tadpole's eye.
That terrifying tininess. Thrilling, flickering, wet. Space and Time writhing
around in a bit of slippery shining. God decided to stick that in our minds.
And even the miniature golf course on fire.
The fatal dune buggy ride.
The smell of some teenage girl's menthol cigarette.
The whole amusement park, and the cotton candy--that
pink and painful sweetness beside you on the seat of some rollercoaster's silhouette
in the pinwheeling sun as it sets.
We were perfect test subjects for this.
As God is my witness:
I woke one morning when I was seven to find
the most unhappy man I've ever known
laughing in his pajamas. "What
are you laughing about?" I asked him,
and he said, "I don't know."
. . . . . . .
Friends and Strangers, steal it if you can!
. . . . . . .
This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.
My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.
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