The Gospel of Galore


Tina Kelley
The Gospel of Galore
Word Press 
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:

The thickness of onion skins, the toughness of apple peel,

the height of the honeycombs, the lushness of squirreltail,

the bands on caterpillars, red of goose breastbone,

the tightness of cornhusks, extent of feathers

down the leg of the partridge

"Strange That There Are No" is a perky index of terms missing from our lexicon:

There is no word for the way little girls run

when their hands are sticky.

"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"—

I start with:  You’re beachbombing on the peninsula.

You are looking for glass floats from Japanese fishingboats

after a storm.  After two years in the Pacific, they wash up here.

Instead, on the rocky beach, you find lightbulbs, entire brittle

clear glass lightbulbs flung up from the churning sea.

One of them is me.  We speak.

As well as to birders, I can imagine people presenting this volume to lovers. Many of these poems are touched by a tender warmth.


Copyright © 2002 Square Lake.  All Rights Reserved.

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