cover image A Conjoined Book: AFTERMATH & Become Tree, Become Bird

A Conjoined Book: AFTERMATH & Become Tree, Become Bird

Karla Kelsey. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-890650-94-0

"Every reader," writes Kelsey (Iteration Nets) in her third collection, "will have noticed that two color fields juxtaposed without separation will, when viewed from some distance, appear in the border region to flow into each other." Collision is a priority here; on the macro level as two books in one volume, where individual poems share attributes such as titles and formal structures; and on the micro level, as Kelsey merges varying rhythms from the elegantly coarse, like Plath, to others carefully collaged, like Susan Howe. AFTERMATH is haunted by Virginia Woolf's verbose convulsions and punctuated by simple phrases: "skilled in grasping what her mother meant when she said now this is your life & so you live it." Become Tree, Become Bird unpacks a Brothers Grimm fairytale's violent conditions through distinctly postmodern means: "are we/ mistaken if we/ find Kronos/ in the/ river in the/ father devouring/ his children." Throughout, Kelsey knits units of language together such that "This discord/ saturates with/ the seen-/ through-a-glass/ with the wait-in-the-doorway-until-you-recognize your name is only a/ problem under the distance of certain systems." Strongest where the collision involves both invention and emotion, Kelsey's work transcends its mechanisms: "as the piano performs scale after scale the piano becomes exception." (Apr.)