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The unity of a thing with itself: Laura Kilbride

I picked up Laura Kilbride’s In the square (Punch Press, 2014) several years ago, but a succession of house-moves and other disruptions meant that I hadn’t properly read it until now. Which is my serious loss.

The book fell off the shelf while I was packing for a few days away, and I’ve been reading it obsessively ever since. It’s an extraordinary work: a thousand lines of intense, almost incantatory verse that seem propelled by their own sound-patterns and syntax even as they weave multiple conflicting meanings into a strange symphonic whole. Line after line pulls off the difficult trick of conveying its own necessity — the conviction that these words, and only these words, flow inevitably from the ones before, with an energy, harmony and syntactic strength that tirelessly keep bringing you back for more.

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Between dog and wolf

For a few months now I’ve been under the spell of the 16th century French poet Louise Labé — or, rather, of Olivia McCannon’s versions of Labé in Modern Poetry in Translation 2016/1. A Renaissance woman in both senses of the term and a feminist centuries before the word was coined, Labé also wrote poetry that, in the words of McCannon’s MPT introduction, “rewrites the male Petrarchan tradition, giving it a blast of positive, debunking energy, a strong female voice and an intelligent physicality.” Continue reading

Folding Time: Jenny Lewis

I enjoyed Jenny Lewis’s Fathom very much. When I organized a multi-poet reading in Jericho last year I was delighted that Lewis agreed to take part, and her performance of Gilgamesh’s lament will stay with me for a long time. In person I found her charming, humble, smart and funny, so I have to admit to being predisposed to like her latest collection, Taking Mesopotamia, before I’d opened it.

In the event, “like” doesn’t begin to do these poems justice. Continue reading