Kathy Graber
Saturnalia Books, $14 (paper)

“Some days I’m reckless, & some days, I board each thought / as though it were the crosstown bus,” Kathy Graber writes in her debut book, whose reckless (and restless) musings draw inspiration from sources as varied as Walter Benjamin, dog kibble, and busted rowboats. The title, Correspondence, refers to letter writing, alignments, and congruity. It also recalls Baudelaire’s sonnet “Correspondences” and with it the French word for synaesthesia, the realm where one sense leaps to sympathize and stand in for another. This collection draws its power from such sympathetic leaps: poems move from Heroditus to plastic snap beads, from scavenged quilts to tattooed arms, and from Kafka to empty storage containers “stacked like children’s colored blocks.” As the poems slide, they gather garbage and philosophy, resurrecting things that might otherwise pass for junk, including the peculiar movements of the mind itself. These strands build fragile, unexpected bridges between the felt and the seen, trying to explain how we know what we want and how we find what to gather. They ask how we value. They ask how, if at all, we can arrange the world’s streams of objects and desires into the flawed and often incongruous medium of language. As Graber writes in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”: “I have no rhetoric for this woman / I carry inside me. She had no syntax for the woman insider her . . .” In these poems, it’s the way in which correspondences slip and fail to correspond that generates the beauty and deeply felt intelligence of the whole: “I want it all. Every broken brick: / if not the fruit, the flower, if not this, the rind, whatever it is / that’s left over.” Here, it is the struggle with incongruity that binds each assemblage together.