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spacer.gif   SUSPECT FIVE: KATHY KUBIK
Posted by : cj on Monday, December 06, 2004 - 10:52 AM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
THE USUAL SUSPECTS

Songs in Red
A Book of Poetry by Kathy Kubik
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


Kathy Kubik's collection captures portraits of the difficult subjects in life with an unflinching lens. It's as if she holds the keys to what lies behind closed doors. Divorce. Spousal abuse. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Racism. Depression. Death. Kubik refuses to shy away from shock imagery and evokes a frightening realism during the juxtaposition of colors as metaphors (such as the color blue as a wound, first physical, then mental) on the very first page, all the way to the entirely satisfying, Hubert Selby-ish, female empowering conclusion that uses traditional form as a means of protest (and which is by far the most disturbing sestina you are ever likely to read, especially within the context of this book as a whole). And by shock imagery, I do not mean cheap gross outs or gratuitous violence, but the actual nightmarish, detached perceptions one might experience during the physical condition of shock, such as what might be perceived during an abortion:

I wait, count grooves
on the ceiling
as shadow puppets
form along streaked green
walls. They turn into clouds.


(from "Choice")

or, perhaps, this gut wrenching thought that pops up in the mind of a victim during a rape:

I lost my lunch.
there's the tuna sandwhich I ate just hours ago
on whole wheat honey nut bread.


(from "stalks of roses")

Like a clearing of the soul, Kubik faces these difficult memories, these moments lost by the blur of shock. These memories are at times personal and at other times based on the lives of fictional as well as historical characters. The less personal moments, such as in the poem "night swimming" (which is about a doe and her fawn drinking in a stream), are far and few in-between, and seem to be symbolic of the mind's escape into tranquillity in the midst of horror. But the reader is often ripped right out of this escape like a sudden scream, as is symbolized by the abrupt changes from first, to third, to second person points of view in "stalks of roses" ( * the italics are mine):

His hands didn't stop
they crossed boundaries and continued to violate.
One covered my mouth
as I so many times screamed NO
they started to blend together
like ON became still oh no, as you ripped and tore.


The poem continues to describe, in alarming detail, how these moments of shock can haunt the victim eternally:

Every night now I write frantic nightmares,
visions of feet fleeing shadows,
the shadows becoming clearer, darker,
becoming you.


With ominous results, these hair-raising inflictions possessing the characters Kubik concentrates on is described as casually as this, from the point of view of a cab driver observing his customer:

that look, a bugged-out crazy jittery
fox he was. Hand shakin' as he points
the way, unable to keep his behind
on the darn seat, so anxious for his
happy fix.


(from "chicago bound blues")

And without passing judgement, the innocence of youth, once thought to be everlasting, comes crashing down under the weight of one heart aching blow of reality after another:

. . .I wanted
Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights,
would settle for lady Chatterley's Lover,
not this surgical probing,
cold, petroleum jelly
finish.


However, the girl-turned-woman never surrenders to any of this, always knowing she deserves better, continuing on in her quest for empowerment, finding it in her own strength, and eventually fighting back by taking control of her own life:

I want synchronized swimming,
water on skin,
bodies folded as one,
sleek as water snakes in sea grass
plunging deep, precise,
whirlpool of pulsating shades of blue.


(both quotes from "first sex")

Talk about powerful stuff! This is poetry that not only will make you feel something, but that will make you feel like a firecracker has gone off in your heart. Bold, brutal, beautiful—this is what Chicago poetry is all about.

--C. J. Laity

Songs in Red can be purchased by stopping by Woman Made Gallery and can be purchased online by visiting KathyKubik.com.

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Click here to offer a financial gift or click here to order the new book by ChicagoPoetry.com Press.



Note: Kathy Kubik's collection captures portraits of the difficult subjects in life with an unflinching lens.

 
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