Kinzie (Undamned, 2014) hopes to write poetry for the masses in this sumptuous collection.
The author opens the book by invoking former Poet Laureate of the United States Billy Collins. It’s an apt allusion, as part of Collins’ popularity springs from the unpretentiousness and approachability of his language. He has said that his own verse is “suburban, it’s domestic, it’s middle class, and it’s sort of unashamedly that.” Kinzie’s poems are the same, and intentionally so. She writes that she hopes that her poetry “isn’t an esoteric exercise in superiority” and believes that “poetry itself, even great poetry, can move out of the dimly lit coffee houses and return to its widely relevant origins.” She writes of life as people live it in America today—of the squabbles children have before their parents come home, of the ubiquity of reality television, of aging house cats and family members. The first part of the collection is the strongest. Among the purest poems is the very first, which uses a volcano as an image for children released from school: “A kind of fluttering / precedes all-out chaos: / an explosion of children in their bright-red uniforms, / cascading and erupting every which way.” Kinzie soars when she uses the idioms of the natural world to share common experiences, as she also does in “Laity Hawk” and “Wildfire.” As the collection progresses, however, it loses some of its deftness. A later section, “Love, and Other Wild Beasts,” features a variety of reflections on modern romance. “Ninja Square Dance,” for example, reads, in part, “If you need her, / don’t let her know. / Act macho and ‘in control’. // When you see love / in her eyes, / take a dance with Miss Thin Thighs.” If the thighs are thin here, so is the verse, and it sounds more like lyrics from a Carrie Underwood B-side. Of course, that’s the danger with writing “popular” poetry; if one isn’t careful, the common can start sounding hackneyed. Most of the time, however, Kinzie is very careful, so little of the material here is trite.
A compilation of verse that’s popular in the best sense of the word.