Friday, June 28, 2013

The Listening: Review

Describing the experience of reading really good poetry is difficult.  I appreciate what Emily Dickinson said about reading poetry: "If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know it is poetry.  If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know it is poetry.  These are the only ways I know it.  Is there any other way?"

Kyle Dargan writes that kind of poetry.  The Listening was his first collection, but it doesn't read like a debut effort.  At the time the book was published, he was still in the MFA program at Indiana University but he writes with the assurance of a man who is already a master of his craft. He uses sound and linguistic gymnastics to weave his verses--mixing jazz and hip-hop to create his own lyric voice.   This is the real deal and the best news is that he has two more collections of poetry out there waiting to be read.

I always feel inadequate when I get ready to review a book of poetry.  I feel like the philistine in the art gallery: I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like.  And I like what Dargan does with these poems.  A lot. 

A few snippets to give you a taste:

           This skin has
a deeper appetite
           for light than most.
  ~from "Of the Sun"

This is how we will find him:
on our hands and knees,
combing over flailed books--seashells
beneath a forgotten tide.
Occasionally we'll wrench  something up ,
not what we are looking for, and read it anyway.
~from "Search for Robert Hayden"

[about a squirrel]
                                                         She crawls over,
stands up to eat. Then back to four legs,
combing the ground, only to become biped again--switching
back and forth as if evolution 
is some LP you scratch and backspin.
~from "Redefinition" 

After-dinner ninjas* In the backyard,
me and my brother roundhousing
and backhanding lightning bugs
into a dim oblivion*
~from "Last Dragons" 

Ella's on a reconnaissance mission
in heaven--eyes closed,
translating things we can't see into song.
~from "Chiaroscuro"

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