Kate Hargreaves, whose new poetry collection is Leak, assembles a collection of poetry that proves that monosyllabic titles say so much.
Thresh, by Kim Minkus:
What initially appealed to me about Thresh is the way it's so driven by verbs and imperatives. The language is often clipped, never verbose or rambling, and its precision and efficiency gives the poems a harsh and sometimes clinical tone. There are no extra words here, no padding or evasive language, just assertions, directives, demands, not questions, but instructions and voyeuristic descriptions. Minkus's unyielding grip, the way she refuses to let her phrasing run away or unravel even one bit, gives off an impression of distance, but it's this wall of concision and utility, pushing the reader back, that at the same time drew me to the collection.
Thrum, by Natalie Simpson:
This is a book that demands to be read out loud. Simpson knows how to stack fricatives and collect consonants in a way that keeps the ear guessing and the tongue tapping. When her words produce a pause, or a trip, a stumble, or the need to go back, shake the phrase out and re-read, it's always in an interesting way that makes the repetition worthwhile.
Crush, by Richard Silken:
When I first read Crush, I was immediately struck by Siken's directness and the tangibility of his images, coupled with the sensation that his poems appear to careen along with a racing pulse. His phrasing is sometimes jarring but can often be lovely even in its frequent moments of violence or panic. It may seem cliché to be reminded of Plath, but this is one of the few books that legitimately recalls for me her style and intensity.
Blert, by Jordan Scott:
Enacting through poetry the experience of the stutterer, Blert is fascinating in its imperviousness to the tongue. Aloud, the text trips up the reader, keeps the mouth and mind on edge, trying to anticipate Scott's next move. Instead of re-creating a stutter as one might expect via repetitions of vowels and letter sounds, a la a-a-a-a-a, Blert puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of faltering over language Scott describes as being designed to be "as difficult as possible for me to read."
[sic], by Nikki Reimer:
When I read this book in grad school, I went back and re-read it several times over in the same week. Something about Reimer's collaging of pop culture references, pathology, and imperatives directed at women's bodies in their daily lives, all accomplished through clever word play and a good ear really stuck with me. Her poems present the gendered, corporatized, medicalized nature of bodies, and turn these structures on their heads through bending cliches, and mishearing lyrics. I find more delightful lines every time I read this book.
Croak, by Jenny Sampirisi:
Bodies are further complicated in Jenny Sampirisi's Croak, in which frogs are girls and girls are frogs and legs and legs and legs and fingers and genitals and tadpoles. Described as a "frog and girl opera in three parts," Croak is a wonderfully grotesque mutation of fairy tale, ecology and libretto. The way she forces the reader to negotiate bodies when the girls overlap the frogs and their environment is fascinating and always keeps the reader grounded in the physical and the bodily, despite the book's fantastical aspects.
Swim, by Marianne Apostolides:
While Swim is technically a novel and not a poetry collection, the poetry of the language is enough for me to arguably include it on this list. Apostolides' phrasing is rhythmic and smooth, mimicking the swimming of the narrator, Kat, repeating the stroke stroke movement like a mantra that pushes the prose forward. The physicality of the body in motion through the water reflects in Kat's memories of a body shrinking through anorexia, and Apostolides is able to represent Kat's simultaneous inhabiting and exterior appraisal of this body. With Kat's physical movements through the water and running recollections overlapping, interrupted in interludes by the outside world, Apostolides seamlessly blends the past, the present, the mind, the body, and the inter-text.
Leak, by Kate Hargreaves:
My own monosyllabic contribution. Leaks, chips, peels, skins, slips, drips, and drops abound. Bodies fall apart. Minds fall apart. And in the emergency room, some attempt is made to piece them back together with parts of an old softball.
Kate Hargreaves is a writer and roller derby skater. Her first book, Talking Derby: Stories from a Life on Eight Wheels (2012), is a collection of short prose vignettes inspired by women's flat-track roller derby. Her poetry has been published in literary journals across North America, including Descant, filling Station, The Puritan, Drunken Boat, The Antigonish Review, Canada and Beyond, Carousel , and Rampike, in the anthologies Whisky Sour City (2012), Detours (2012), as well as in the Windsor Review's "Best Writers Under 35" issue. Hargreaves was the recipient of a Windsor Endowment for the Arts Emerging Literary Artist Award in 2011 and a Governor General's Gold Medal in Graduate Studies at the University of Windsor in 2012, where she obtained her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English and Creative Writing. Kate grew up in Amherstburg, Ontario, but now lives in Windsor, where she works as a publishing assistant and book designer.
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