The Fish & The Dove

Mary-Kim Arnold. Noemi, $18 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-934819-88-3
In this accomplished debut, Arnold interrogates identity and received modes of storytelling. “I keep company with ghosts,” her speaker declares, “[I] prefer the dead to the living/ grief the cave of wonders I’ve walled myself in.” As Arnold registers these paradoxes, she moves gracefully between traditional forms and innovative hybrids. A series of linked lyric pieces unfolds into fragments and visual experiments with gray scale, palimpsest, and erasure. “I read the history books but all I find is/ perpetual war/ state of alert/ perpetual fear,” her speaker observes. For Arnold, the question of who has the agency to chronicle—and erase—history looms. “They give her a chapter in their history books—/ call it ‘Woman’s Rule’/ but manage to make it about men,” she asserts. Retaining agency over the narratives of history remains indelibly linked to traditional modes of storytelling: “As if history’s frayed threads aren’t unraveling,” she remarks, as though reflecting on the poems themselves. Arnold proves as self-aware as she is subtle, gesturing to the performative quality of her language, and reminding the reader of its politically charged intent. This book is a rare achievement, and Arnold is an exciting voice in contemporary poetry. (May)
Reviewed on : 05/20/2020
Release date: 04/01/2020
Genre: Poetry
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