Friday, April 12, 2013



This review was written for and appeared in the Pacific Rim Review of Books, Vol. 8 No. 2 (ie. last fall). If you don't already subscribe to it, you should. I was at a book launch tonight, so no time for a brand new post today.

Dis ease and De sire—the M anu S cript
          poems by Kim Clark

     Reading Kim Clark is a little like turning compost. There’s dirt. There are worms. And the deeper you dig, the richer it gets. The Nanaimo poet and fiction writer isn’t above inventing new words where old ones won’t quite do. In Dis ease and De sire—the M anu S cript, her new chapbook with the striking mottled red cover from Lipstick Press last year, you’ll find words like “starvatious”, and the title of her first collection of short stories, published in 2011 by Caitlin Press, is Attemptations.
     The MS in this chapbook is Multiple Sclerosis, and she writes about it from an intimate vantage point; she has it, and in Clark it’s found a formidable opponent. She writes with objectivity, humour and perception, as in the last lines of Ghost of a spider poem:

                        the trouble with tender
                        is the small word contained there
                        enveloped in empty letters.

     In Lacuna Clark brings you to a pub for some laughter, banter/easy discourse, then hauls you out of both your chair and your complacency to cross the room to the bathroom with her, cane and deadwood leg notwithstanding.
     She uses rhyme just sparingly enough for it to pack a serious punch when you encounter it, never more so than in Nerve, with its Batman BLAM! POW! ZONK! BANG! WHAM! stanza introductions and this, from the first one:

     now it’s my nerves that blur me—
     multiple scarring of my nerves,
     black holes in my MRI brain,
     message interrupt-us,
     relentless sclerosis
     a mess

     I read an earlier version of Nerve in 2005 at the Victoria School of Writing where I met Clark in one of the summer poetry workshops. More importantly, I remembered the poem, for the clear, simple, devastating way she plays with sounds—interrupt-us/sclerosis/mess/MS.  
     Night bloom is a deft riff on the way air feels on bare skin: inciting the bloom/of a quicksilver shiver/to spread its long fingers. I spent an inordinate amount of time over several readings trying to decide if Night bloom needed the one-word line it ends with that serves to provide information already presented, beautifully and precisely, in the poem. A minor quibble, but I thought it could end with savour brief thrill/of sensation, which led to a spirited what-are-you-doing-I’m-writing-about-a-word discussion with my husband. (He liked it). And while I’m being picky, Clark’s use of brackets can be distracting, as in Untitled:

     a series of walking dreams
     brings my body back to me
     the distant fog
     the darkness beyond
     run poor interference
     it would be too beautiful
     a thing to capture
     record, slow mo   tion

     step away [hint]

     Kim Clark, writes the kind of poetry you keep tasting to see if it’s really as good as you thought, and it is. Her poetry (as well as her fiction) combines playfulness with sensuality, mixing the serious and wistful in a way that invokes pondering and challenges the reader. To borrow a phrase from Nerve, if you’re voracious starvatious for more of her poems, you’re in luck. A new book, Sit You Waiting from Caitlin Press, comes out this fall.

Here's Kim, right after she opened up her very first box of books!

No comments: