cover image The Keys to the Jail

The Keys to the Jail

Keetje Kuipers. BOA Editions (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938160-26-4

Love lost, love almost lost, landscapes explored (especially those of the mountain West), sex imagined, and sex enjoyed all play their parts in this strongly felt, if sometimes talky, second effort from Kuipers (Beautiful in the Mouth). Never coy about her symbols, she decides “The ocean is a fist, inside of which I/ am allowed to be heartbroken,” while elsewhere (in a persona poem called “The Femme”) “I want to transgress the halls of sex,/ eat the filter on the cigarette.” Her poems about love between women can be her strongest, and her identities complex: “I’ll keep wanting it all: every man/ and woman I meet,” a not-quite-sonnet promises. Short sentences alternate with longer self-explanations, never abstruse, sometimes obvious, but sometimes wise. Kuiper divides her time between Alabama and Montana, and both the warm South and the cold forests enter her work: more than in her debut, though, her sense of place serves her sense of how people behave. Fans of Mark Doty, or of Eavan Boland will find a lot here to like, especially once they get past the predictable breakup poems, into the verse about self-discovery, lust pursued or affection found, where the poet exclaims, “hope is the saddest/ secret of all: Please, be wild for me.” (Apr.)