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Copper Canyon Press, $15 (paper)
Many artists are remembered for a distinct organ of perception: Bataille’s eye, Van Gogh’s ear, Escher’s hands. In lyric production, this privilege usually goes to situational contexts, not the scattered Orphic body or the site of utterance itself—the mouth. But quiet insistence on the bruised, wounded site of speech is a live theme in King Me. “And What If This Is an Imaginary City?” observes “a small yellow bird . . . . Then a mistimed sunrise . . . . Then the old word, collapse, . . . Then, hard fruit for which no mouth will complain.” In “Close Your Eyes,” we find, “My mouth, uncollected and silent as rope.” The body’s transubstantiation into panis angelicus for the other (today metaphorized as the cannibalism and the parasitism of capital), metaphors that recall George Herbert’s “The Altar” and Emily Dickinson’s “Deprived of Other Banquet,” are subtexts. Metaphor and metonymy collapse in declarations of the “coconut” and “cockerel” as one, injunctions salvific as the biblical Song of Solomon or the Vedic and Gnostic hymns. King Me offers incantations rife with longing, longing to be fed as well as crowned a winner in the game of life by bestowing, and being given, a name: “When has a god ever sent bread / That hasn’t required a bit of breaking, a fig crushed, / A body made to sing even as it is shattered?”
Virginia Konchan is the author of three poetry collections, Hallelujah Time (Véhicule Press, 2021), Any God Will Do, and The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2020 and 2018); a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017); and four chapbooks, as well as coeditor (with Sarah Giragosian) of the craft anthology Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems (University of Akron Press, 2022). Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Best New Poets, The Believer, and The New Republic.
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