Monday, February 14, 2011
Review: Eggs of American Songbirds by Kenneth L. Clark
"This book is © 2010 by Kenneth L. Clark. It has no ISBN or other official presence in the world. Like all of us and every thing, it will disappear someday with the rest of what we love and remember with fondness."
The cover design for 'Eggs of American Songbirds' is by GUD's layout editor, poetry maven, and Issues #1 and #7 Instigator, Sue Miller. Redneck Press is owned and operated by friend-of-GUD and Night Train editor Rusty Barnes. A free .pdf of the chapbook was provided by the publishers and will be kept by the reviewer. Poet and short-fiction writer Kenneth L. Clark was published in Issue 1 of GUD Magazine.
Now we've got the disclaimers out of the way, on to the poetry.
'Eggs of American Songbirds' is a handsome chapbook of poems drawn from life. In them, Clark clearly enjoys playing with the slipperiness of language and the exploitation of the way we read poems, in order, linearly. If you read this line from 'Still Time' in isolation it tells you one thing:
we make time to forget the laundry
When you move on to the line that follows, what it tells you changes:
list of things to do and ignore today
who fills out an incident report. It’s a crime
to be quiet as a puddle after chrome violence
At the spillway the red
winged blackbird crouches down
('At the Spillway')
There's fun with and love of language in this chapbook, but at the same time, the poems feel deeply personal. They are about love and loss, grief and intimacy. Clark writes himself and his preoccupations onto the page.
"Don’t say anything else tonight,
put your head in my lap and sleep, forget 25 hours
of news and information, relapse to when sleep came
by the cadence of rain, hard rain. Rain, hard rain."
('Ethics for the New Gulf')
Anything and everything is grist for the poet's mill--anything seen, overheard, everything felt, experienced. It's all here: little slices of life pinned to the page.
photographs from an album while her husband went to walk the dog
and find the cat. "This one is Steven and this one’s an old barn."
('The Body Paused')
Clark's poems can convince you that there is beauty in the mundane, but that it takes a poet to see it and bring it to our attention.
There should be an easier way to speak
about crazy women—it’s not enough to just
change the names or distort the facts,
you have to make the stories believable
even though they aren’t.
('On Returning Home To Find My Things Destroyed')
This self-assumed task permeates the pages.
Some of the poems, of course, are more successful than others. I particularly liked 'The Body Paused' and 'Home and Garden', perhaps because they spoke to me more than the others. That's the secret of literature; everyone brings their own experience to it, and takes it away changed, re-interpreted, perhaps--we hope--better understood. You could do worse than start that process here.
Kenneth L. Clark's work appears in GUD Issue 1: Catholic Girls, A Doorbell, and In Defense of the Boll-Weevil