The Gatehouse Heaven: Poems

James Kimbrell, Author
James Kimbrell, Author Sarabande Books $12.95 (80p) ISBN 978-1-889330-14-3
Hardcover - 80 pages - 978-1-889330-13-6
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From a solitary Southern childhood where he had a hand in his sister's trysts, to a South Korean journey in adulthood (""this life/ disguised as the next""), Kimbrell's speaker often plays the role of onlooker. The first of five sections here captures a wandering, cryptic loneliness in occasionally monosyllabic cadences reminiscent of James Wright: ""It was/ the middle of the night so far into the field/ The deer began not to notice the moons/ In the shallow bean row puddles."" The title section, a long, deep meditation on the poet's relationship with his mentally ill father, exposes his own confusion with stubborn, unsettling clarity: ""And now, if I should want to speak to him, I'd have/ No idea where to go, though he is far from gone."" While this debut, introduced by Charles Wright, contains a pleasing range of modes (poems like ""Letters to a Vanishing Fianc e"" and ""At the Green Grocer with Mrs. Thibodeau"" reveal that Kimbrell can be playful, too), at times the cost of their diffuseness is a certain mannered distance and lack of immediacy. The lushness of the more classically tinged contemplations (""If/ the swollen, cart-wheeling transgressors/ of desire begin to desire once more/ who'd not let the blue-with-death demons/ untie their hands and follow their/ laughing down the hall?"") often works to bridge the gap, but doesn't quite match up with the self-revelatory tendencies of others. (June)
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