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INTO THE CYCLORAMA

Gorgeous poems, rich with allusions to music, art, and history from Ancient Greece to the Korean War.

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This debut poetry collection offers a resonant meditation on personal and collective identity.

Kim, the assistant dean for public service at the University of Virginia School of Law, won the University of Southern Indiana’s 2015 Michael Waters Poetry Prize for this book. Her poems are elegant and intricate, with forms ranging from prose paragraphs to the three spare lines of the sijo, a traditional Korean lyric with a set number of syllables and pauses. Sometimes the configuration varies within the same poem: “The Bronze Helmet (A Retrospective)” and “Post-Colonial Album: 1980” are made up of particularly impressive, multipart verses that frequently transform from one structure, or point of view, to another. In the former poem, the points of reference include archaeology, the Olympics, and Korean-Japanese relations—all linked via the titular helmet, which was gifted to the first Korean gold medalist (from 1936’s Berlin Games), Sohn Kee-chung, on the eve of the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. The relic becomes a potent symbol of cultural-compromise-as-survival-strategy: later generations have “endured not happily perhaps / but strong which is the gift of bronze / the life of alloy.” Complicated feelings toward family members infuse multiple poems, such as “Prelude and Fugue,” about a grandfather’s disappearance, and “A Rag for My Father,” with its somber variations on the refrain, “A father is a kind of trap / you could easily fall for.” The opening poem, “Thin Gold String,” sets up a picture of life as a series of accidents and losses, and much of what follows lives up to that melancholy vision. “Cyclorama” effectively maps out the repetitive nature of violence on the page, with personal concerns and headlines about mass shootings left-aligned, and the Civil War battles of the Gettysburg Cyclorama aligned on the right. Instead of rhyme, Kim relies on wordplay, such as “fugere” versus “fugue,” and alliteration, such as “flicking water on the flames” and “drop into a deep, delicious sleep” from “New World (III).” Dreams and journeys are additional recurring themes, while familiar buildings serve as metaphors for the self.

Gorgeous poems, rich with allusions to music, art, and history from Ancient Greece to the Korean War.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-930508-37-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Southern Indiana Review Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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ONCE UPON A GIRL

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

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Keridan’s poetry testifies to the pain of love and loss—and to the possibility of healing in the aftermath.

The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman once wrote that literature—and poetry, in particular—can help us “read the wound” of trauma. That is, it can allow one to express and explain one’s deepest hurts when everyday language fails. Keridan appears to have a similar understanding of poetry. She writes in “Foreword,” the opening work of her debut collection, that “pain frequently uses words as an escape route / (oh, how I know).” Many words—and a great deal of pain—escape in this volume, but the result is healing: “the ending is happy / the beginning was horrific / so let’s start there.” The book, then, tracks the process of recovery in the wake of suffering, and often, this suffering is brought on by romantic relationships gone wrong. An early untitled poem opens, “I die a little / taking pieces of me to feed the fire / that keeps him warm / you don’t notice that it’s a slow death / when you’re disappearing little by little.” The author’s imagery here—of the self fueling the dying fire of love—is simultaneously subtle and wrenching. But the poem’s message, amplified elsewhere in the book, is clear: We go wrong if we destructively give ourselves over to others, and healing comes only when we turn our energies back to our own good. Later poems, therefore, reveal that self-definition often equals strength. The process is painful but salutary; when “you’re left unprotected / surrounded by chaos with nothing you / can depend on / except yourself / and that’s when you gather the pieces / of the life you lost / and use them to build the life you want.” The “life you want” is an elusive goal, and the author knows that the path to self-definition is fraught with peril—but her collection may give strength to those who walk it.

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72770-538-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Endings

POETRY AND PROSE

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.

Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-3693-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016

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