Women in Public

Elaine Kahn. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-87286-681-2
Kahn's precise and attentive debut full-length collection probes at notions of femininity with a sharp dagger, her terse but assertive stanzas carrying an understated conviction. "Listen, I'm not political, I am distracted," she proclaims, though her focused language will convince readers of her intelligence and savvy. Kahn examines and attempts to understand womanhood, relationships, and the abjection surrounding both. Deeply personal, her poems exude a careful intimacy. "Every observation is perverse," she writes, "So kiss me/ like you're eating/ soft serve/ from a cone." Despite her constant self-examination, Kahn's curiosity and doubts remain: "I have seen a million/ pictures of my face/ and still/ I have no idea." In this outward radiation one finds sensations of simultaneous self-disgust and self-fascination. "I make myself into a line," she exclaims, before finding "The horror of myself/ and the meanness of myself./ The black boxes of my body / floating just above the earth." This sense of disembodiment and self-removal permeates the collection: "I call out from the water perfectly/ oh hello glossolalia my God." Kahn's poems emulate both the microscope and telescope, looking at once inward and outward in succinctly speaking to and about womanhood. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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