Flemish

Caroline Knox, Author
Caroline Knox. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $20 (64p) ISBN 978-1-933517-65-0
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Knox’s eighth collection begins with the poem “Chartist,” in which the subject’s daily life leads him to take the roles of various characters: “He was a Chartist in his apartment/ opening cherrystones for guests at lunch…he was a parodist, he was a quietist…he was a dynast.” In the ensuing 29 poems, Knox (Quaker Guns) dresses her speakers and her cacophony of subjects (sister, otters, Dickinson, Mary Wesley) in whatever clothes history hands them (or she conjures up), letting them act out their roles on a spindle of wordplay and pathos. While play and obscure personal humor are Knox’s usual m.o., occasionally she strives for a Shakespearean level of diction-twisting and inference, as in the long poem “Subjects” and the mini-play “Coffee Cantata” (LISA: [Aside] Seeking suitable beaux / gladly my father goes/ and little my heart he knows:// it shall be sworn in the prenup / I’ll brew and pot and drink it up / whenever I desire a cup. // DAD: I’m off to town a husband to produce.// BARISTA: I’d like to think that I could be of use.” And in a few poems, like the gorgeous “The Eaves,” she elevates her eye for the incidental into the kind of verse that prods her forebears’ influence just-so into the adjoining room, where “borrowed and leftover light glances off the textured, mushy, or glazed surfaces of nature, manufacture.” (Apr.)
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