The Gospel of Galore
96 pages, $16
The early poems in Tina Kelley’s first book can sometimes seem exercises in development—a list of names of clowns found in the Yellow Pages, a catalogue of "All the Birds Aloft Just Now," or, from "Prophecies for the Present," ways to tell a cold winter is coming:
"Strange That There Are No" is a perky index of terms missing from our lexicon:
"The Word Kite" ambles through the words for kite in other languages before sidling off to propose new kite-related vocabulary: kitarsis, kitekin, pismo domine, requeste de l’aire.
As the two previous examples indicate, Kelley’s poems frequently direct us to think about the way language (insufficiently) maps experience. Perhaps the most amusing of these inquiries is "The Things We Make Birds Say," which makes seventy lines out of the human words ornithologists use to describe bird songs. (The book is full of bird poems; it would be an appropriate present for a birder.)
If the poems in the first half of the book can sometimes make one think of figure skating’s "compulsories," in the free-style work that follows the turns open out in unexpected directions. Perhaps my favorite poem here, "Having Evolved from Trees," is spoken from the point of view of sentient creatures whose ancestors were leafy rather than chimpy. Like good fantasy and science fiction, it made me long.
And it’s hard not to appreciate "Given the Premise That I Can Send One Scene a Week to Your Dreaming Sleep"—
As well as to birders, I can imagine people presenting this volume to lovers. Many of these poems are touched by a tender warmth.
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