Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Bestiary: Poems

Bestiary: Poems by Donika Kelly, 70 pages.

Kelly, winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, gives us that a collection that is mostly accessible and beautiful. When it's vague and inaccessible, it's still beautiful, stirring, urging you on to something that may be beyond you (beyond me, anyway). The series of poems, all named "Bower," circle around a theme that may escape me but use the images of the bird and the nest, starting with:

Consider the bowerbird and his obsession
of blue, and then the island light, the acacia
the grounded beasts. Here the iron smell of blood,
the sweet marrow, fields of grass and bone.. . .

And ending with the one about the hat:

A small hat, the fedora,
gray-blue banded tweed,
sits atop an unkempt nest
. . .
I love the recurring and similar titles in the collection, "Love Poem: Centaur, " followed by centaur, Satyr, Pegasus, and Werewolf. Ending, finally with "Love Poem: Donika," last of the mythological beings.

The "Self Portrait as a " series is also wonderful. From "Self Portrait as a Door,"

All the birds die of blunt-force trauma--
of barn of wire of YIELD or SLOW 
CHILDREN AT PLAY. You are a sign
are a plank are a raft are a felled oak.
You are a handle are a turn are a bit
of brass lovingly polished.
What birds what bugs what soft
hand come knocking. What echo
what empty what room in need
a picture a mirror a bit of paint
on the wall. There is a hooked rug
There is a hand hard as you are hard
punding the door. . .

Some are really lovely, almost delicate poems, and others are raw and pain-filled, reminiscent of Sharon Olds. I look forward to reading more of Kelly's work.

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