cover image Young Tambling

Young Tambling

Kate Greenstreet. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $20 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-934103-35-7

Provocative and unsettling in its variety, this third collection from Greenstreet (case sensitive) nonetheless insists on the bare facts of sex and death, friendship and family, children’s wishes and adults’ regrets. Each of five segments contains sparse verse, fragmentary memoir-like prose, and facsimile images, from the poet’s handwriting to what seem to be her own paintings. Together these segments reflect on the death of a loved one, on childhood and adolescence in a Catholic family, on why we make art (“You’ve got to have something to prove”), and on the traditional ballad of Tambling or Tam Lin, in which a pregnant human girl tries to rescue a captive prince from fairyland. “This story takes place everywhere,” Greenstreet writes early on, and indeed her laconic meditations place her all over imagination’s map, in the land of tales and in a very contemporary (some would say avant-garde) scene. “People often ask me why my photographs are torn,” she muses. “The purpose would be/ to learn. To represent a life.” If thinking about the difficulty in representation—about what it means to write, about the space of a page—threatens to crowd out the life itself, that life comes back in, especially in the prose passages. Greenstreet places herself in the company of C. D. Wright and Anne Carson, whose fans might gravitate to her careful resilience. (Jan.)