January 19, 2017

A real live ghost

I don't go in much for quantifying my behavior or experiences. Not for me the Fitbit, the Foursquare, the daily selfie. The one exception is my regularly updated Goodreads, where I'm always satisfied to glance over my past year in review. Because I was unemployed for about two months in 2016 and then got a job where my winter commute involves spending two hours on the train every day, I'm pleased and unsurprised to see that I read more than a book a week in 2016, covering 12,935 pages in 54 books.

I read a little less poetry than usual in 2016: only six books of poems appear in my Goodreads list, although that of course doesn't count single poems or chapbooks. My favorite book of poems I read was Killer by Kimmy Walters. If you spend a lot of time in certain corners of Twitter, you might know Kimmy as @arealliveghost. She's the person who did @Horse_ebooks poems before me. It is not at all flattery or self-deprecation when I say that Kimmy's Horse_ebooks poems are better than mine; I still really enjoy revisiting them. 

There's a hilarious inventiveness to the poems in Killer: things happen that seem both inevitable and impossible, like a dream of "trying to marry a husband" and buying him and the priest coffees for their trouble when signing over and over on the line leaves you unchanged, or being "so anxious I could / French-braid a golden retriever". 

The exacting balance of humorous and sinister things in these poems makes me feel extra-aware of my perceptions. It's an exciting awareness, an expansion of the usual, like one of those dreams where your house has extra rooms you'd never noticed and you wake up looking for them. For instance, "Imagined Sighting Three Years After the Fact" begins
I saw him from far away
the color behind him 
furrowed like a badly-sewn 

Picturing these wrinkles in a of color - a wall, or a piece of sky - succinctly captures both a visual and an emotional state. It's the anxiety of seeing someone you didn't plan to see who evokes strong feelings in you, whose presence seems marked by your reaction.

Kimmy studied linguistics and she has an incredible gift for making language strange, pointing out its odd holes. The example that always sticks in my head is from her first book Uptalk, from the last poem, "It's Raining":
you go to the window and say it's raining
I say what is
you make a huge movement
toward the window
and say everything is

and just like that, everything is

everything is, at slightly different speeds

How remarkable that I'd never thought to wonder what the "it" is that's raining until I read this poem. I especially appreciate how the two consecutive instances of "everything is" makes you consider the verb is. Everything exists, everything is in a state of being, at slightly different speeds.

Kimmy's poems get me excited not just about poetry, but about paying attention to the world. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 

Tell me what you're reading and what interests you this new year. I always like getting messages from you.