Rail

Kai Carlson-Wee. BOA, $16 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-942683-58-2
Poet and filmmaker Carlson-Wee’s debut traces an itinerant path through forgotten places and oft-ignored voices of the rural U.S. in the wake of the Great Recession. These lyrics, remarkable for their unpretentious, un-performative Americana, accumulate images, secondhand stories, and plainspoken observations while avoiding the rhetorical signaling so common in rural poetics. “I find it here in the wild alfalfa, head full/ of antipsychotics and blue rain,” he begins, writing as a 20-year-old hopping a freight train. Carlson-Wee’s accumulative method results in a sort of American abundance tinged with melancholy and visions of globalized freight. His strongest moments are of quiet, brutal lyric beauty, as in the gutting of a fish: “And the fact of death goes sliding out/ on the perfect glass of the lake.” The work can sometimes feel repetitive in content (“The road goes on. With or without us.”) or form and function (the cataloging of natural or industrial images, or development according to a repeated phrase), but Carlson-Wee rescues many lines from the brink of cliché (“even/ death, in its marble skies and free-wheeling borders/ is an art of remembering everything over”). Throughout, Carlson-Wee displays an uncanny knack for foregrounding the faceless elements of modernity against what could be a mythic existence: “you turned to forget who I was/ and left through the automatic doors.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
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