In her second collection of poems, K.I. Press reflects on a great love of books and fictional characters, and of reading, printing and typography. Her poetry takes existing texts to thrilling heights, bringing Alice in Wonderland alongside Jane Eyre and the Bible. Readers will delight in the caustic silliness of poems like “Slushpile” and “Library,” and in the psychological depth and tragedy of the “Anne and Jane” sequence.
The act of reading and the imaginative process provide the foreground of Spine. Reading is at once indulgent and sharply necessary. One poem tells of books who take on the physical character of their genre. In another we meet a reader of Proust who finds herself unable to leave her reading, and in another the sense of abandonment that comes during a sabbatical from reading, when “cats no longer sat in my lap, birds sang only when trying to wake me.”
Press’s fascination with reading opens onto a realm where fictional and historical characters expand beyond their original texts. The “Anne and Jane” sequence reexamines the heroine’s position in two well-known novels. In “Joanna” the poet provides a vivid characterization of typographer Eric Gill and his home life, from the perspective of his daughter Joan. “The Letters” are fiery variations on the biblical letters from Paul to several of the early churches. Here Press combines modern details and a new level of fervency to recreate the impatience and overwhelming tenderness of this apostle.
The landscape and populace of this collection take their cues from contemporary geography and from styles reminiscent of other periods. Throughout Spine, Press demonstrates a deftness for shifting between contexts, making Jane Eyre a function of contemporary female experience and placing mementos of the twenty-first century inside the Bible.
This book is a Smyth-sewn paperback with cover flaps. The text was typeset by Andrew Steeves in Eric Gill’s Joanna types and printed on Rolland Zephyr Laid paper. The cover is printed letterpress on Fraser Mosaic stock.
“Her ultra-clear diction and satirical reading-twixt-lines recalls Margaret Atwood, but Press has more whimsy and less menace.” George Elliott Clark, Halifax Chronicle Herald