I Want To Make You Safe
by Amy King
Litmus Press, $15 (paper)

Amy King’s fourth collection of poems manifests something of Allen Ginsberg’s orphic lament and intimate yearning—personal appeals and political plaints fold together in rattling neologisms. King does not adopt a long line, but her language recalls Ginsberg’s verbal pyrotechnics: “My intestines clang with confectionary histories”; “this parcel world / on its wire waltz in brown paper creased?”; “one finger in a drone of cherubic phone calls”; “I am the gruntwork and a mystery of the gruntwork.” The oracular oratory in King’s book derives in part from the same place as Ginsberg’s: Walt Whitman. But hers is the voice of a postmodern Whitman in drag. The poems are performative, outspoken, and have an appropriative quality; they grab words, and attention, and you. These poems address both personal and political insecurity (there are references to the Department of Homeland Security and to homes with “locks that work / both ways”). The poems are predicated on a sense of danger that accompanies a desire to know. King wants to cast spells that make you secure, but—as Cassandra, or Eve, or Jocasta will tell you—knowledge never makes you safe. As a result King’s poetry can be admired but not always entered. Her bravado exposes the fact that the kind of safety afforded by the gruntwork and guesswork of making poems is a fragile, temporary sanctuary constructed out of an exquisite and often opaque linguistic architecture.