Thursday, October 06, 2016

Karin Gottshall | Almanac for the Sleepless

Almanac for the Sleepless: poems by Karin Gottshall (dancing girl press, 2012). Saddle-stapled chapbook, unpaginated (21 pages).

[I was at Vermont College with Karin a thousand thousand years ago, though she may count the time in mere decades. That said, we haven't really kept up and I consider this to be an objective reading of her chapbook.]

Karin's earlier chapbook, Flood Letters (Argos Books, 2011), is so gorgeous that I eagerly bought this one when I saw it in Kristy Bowen's catalog. (I'm a big fan of both presses.) I didn't really get into this one at first, but I kept it around, thinking, maybe it's me. The poems just felt too prosey and seemed to lack the surprising images, turns of language, and intensity that make Flood Letters so, so good. So I set this one down, started it again, set it aside again, and just the other day picked it up to finish.

And what a finish: the last two poems, "The Victorian Age" and "The Lake of the Valley," just vibrate with energy. The first buzzes with surprise in its accretion of like and unlike images and feels relentless and inevitable, yet completely original. "The Lake of the Valley" has a relentless quality, as well, but it's of the can't-look-away variety (a girl is drawing water from a well as a dam is opened to flood the valley) and concludes with a gorgeous, haunting image of girl suspended over well: gravity itself reversed, dreamlike and terrible/beautiful.

The other poems are interesting enough--I don't want to suggest less--but they lack, for me, the energy and intensity of these two, which absolutely make the chapbook worth reading (and I hope you do read it). I'm looking forward to finding more of Karin's work.

[rebound with orange cord]

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