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

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INTO THE CYCLORAMA

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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Nicks is better when working rather than playing.

Tales From The Otherground

30 YEARS TENDING THE WORDROWS OF ELSEWHEN

Get past Nicks’ self-conscious cleverness and you’ll find a poet of great depth and feeling.

The great British critic Christopher Ricks is famously unimpressed with William Butler Yeats. He suspects that Yeats’ verse is more “sonorous” than substantial—that his cleverness as a wordsmith hides the fact that his poetry is much less weighty than we might assume. The phrase in the subtitle of Nicks’ new volume—“the Wordrows of Elsewhen”—leads one to suspect that there is a similarly empty cleverness in this poet’s work, too. Yes, “Elsewhen” is a savvy-ish play on “elsewhere,” but one fears such play will get us nowhere fast. Some of Nicks’ verse suffers from the same flaw. The early piece “At My Age (under the yoke of over)” begins, “once upon a time and twice upon a place; / three times I’ve started over.” “[T]wice upon a place” is like “Elsewhen”: we get the joke, but we may not be laughing. Fortunately, Nicks often abandons these tricks for simple, moving evocations of real life. As one example, take “Things I’ve Learned Out Here”: “water is free / and drinking a lot of it / can help you feel less hungry // bread doesn’t really go bad; / it just gets a little stale and, at worst, a little moldy / and can be had for incredibly modest sums / just because it’s not fresh from the oven.” This isn’t poetry about play; it’s about work. Or more precisely, it’s poetry about need—a need one suspects the author himself has experienced. This need punches through the words and springs off the page, hitting the reader square. Another admirable, unpretentious piece, “Animals And Words,” opens, “i looked up, / the sun looked down; / a good day for a ride / but the traffic wasn’t mine / so i went back to work.”

Nicks is better when working rather than playing. 

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-9831191-9-7

Page Count: 150

Publisher: Blue Jay Ink

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2015

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A sweet, philosophical collection of poems about love in all its forms.

NEW LOVE POEMS

A wide-ranging collection of poems about love, extending from the personal to the spiritual and from the romantic to the platonic.

Benczik’s debut collection takes a broad look at love, beginning with wooing and flirtation and moving to romance, heartbreak, friendship, love for oneself and experiences with the divine. The characters in the romantic love poems are often left unnamed, creating the feeling of a universal experience to which readers can easily relate. Although Benczik writes about heartbreak and rejection, love in her poems is almost always a source of healing; the collection tells of new loves that “kissed the tears away” and the speaker’s quest for love in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the 9/11 attacks. The longer narrative poems are tempered by shorter pieces that evoke a Dorothy Parker–esque sense of humor. In “Valentine’s Day,” she says simply, “A celebrated date / to osculate / your mate.” Her tongue-in-cheek wisecracks are evident throughout but so are a sense of genuine hopefulness and a desire to uplift and enlighten the reader. The poems frequently break into the second person with words of wisdom and comfort. “I want to give you this gift in case you were missing it like I was,” the narrator says after describing a long struggle to gain attention from others. “So now, let’s tell everybody the secret / You have God’s Full Attention, too.” Religion is a recurring theme, but as with the rest of the collection, the poems attempt to represent a broad range of experiences; Buddha appears in addition to Catholic saints, and an unspecified God makes multiple appearances. The poems often venture into rhyme but never adhere to a fixed form for long. Readers are left with the lingering sensation that this talented new author is not only exploring love, but her own poetic voice and range.

A sweet, philosophical collection of poems about love in all its forms.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4525-7522-3

Page Count: 164

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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