Reviews, Vol. 2.2, June 2008
Finishing Line Press, 2008
Reviewed by Cynthia Reeser
Karen Rigby, author of Festival Bone, will be publishing Savage Machinery, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in September. Rigby’s work is a must-read for appreciators of the language and craft of poetry.
Rigby stakes her claim in unusual, startling imagery and fine attention to detail. In “Design for a Flying Machine,” “the parachute dreamed centuries too soon” takes a turn, much like that found in a sonnet:
could hold the weight of a balloon
like the one now leaking helium.
Why do we do it, the dumb abandonment?
The last line above proffers an endorsement of what is to come: “Houses mushroom in the woods. Imagine the view,/ the body speeding in sleep.”
Rigby’s works tend to surface the unexpected with careful language, as in “Flyover Country”:
beside you sleeping, together but separate
in their dark circling, like skaters
on Breughel’s platinum lake, then a memory
of mannequins suspended
The body is an envoi for the couple’s “dark circling” through dreams and sleep cycles. The implication of such a crossing over from waking consciousness into dream consciousness could have psychoanalytical critics fawning. “Photo of an Autoerotic” sets off on “the body’s hardwood cursive” and ends in rooms of the city. Where only the rooms bear witness to the pleasures they contain, the rooms take on another function—that of lover. In this also is the truth found in the ordinary, evidenced too in “Verite.” The heart’s hope to regain love lost, even “pushing luck after goodbye,” is voiced through the stars. “What I speak has nothing to do/ with love. There is no galaxy./ A star is not plural.”
Rigby’s ability to see beyond the ordinary is evident in her ability to collide words with images and make the resulting chemical reaction form meaningful arcs. Though these means, she fulfills her role as poet in her achievement (to which every true poet is obligated) to provoke multiple interpretations that remain fresh with every reading. The possibilities beyond the obvious surface through words and images, and thankfully do not stop at being just words and images. Rigby’s ability to marry words with metaphor leads to the work’s impacting emotion and memorability.