cover image The Missing Museum

The Missing Museum

Amy King. Tarpaulin Sky (SPD, dist.), $16 trade paper (114p) ISBN 978-1-939460-08-0

“As one would startle the sun, Amy King’s poem understands her first,” writes King (I Want to Make You Safe) in her fifth collection, as if anticipating frustrated readers. King is anxious to assert that “understanding” is not a part of the book’s project, but rather a condition that one must move through like a person hurriedly moving through a museum. In these poems, “gestures pass for us/ tailored, we shirttails seeking supervision.” Cascades of largely unstructured gestures towards politics, nature, and technology are peppered with attempts to explain compositional choices: “We stood/ in the room’s disintegration,/ matter apart—a shapeless science apiece,/ looking for form.” The book argues with itself, asserting that being a poet means “To never know and, unknowing, get on with it” even as it claims elsewhere that “your emotions are an intelligence,/ and if you don’t take care, cultivate how you learn/ from wounds to them, then you will be a dumb genius.” Struggling to strike a balance between cultivation and honest unknowing, King’s collection is by turns raw and unsatisfying. Though King understands that “This isn’t America, though I am,” she falls short of addressing the ways in which building a personal museum of gestures can confront societal ills. [em](Sept.) [/em]