Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The many levels of Kristen Orser


Kristen Orser’s Folded Into Your Midwestern Thunderstorm is just out from Greying Ghost Press. It is a chap that, in many ways, extends the multi-leveled, multi-layered approach I noted in Orser's earlier work. Orser seems interested in “doubling,” playing semantic games with phrases which take on multiple, simultaneous meanings. The prolific way that Orser deposits these doubles or triple meaning phrases throughout the chap makes Folded a head-spinning, hallucinogenic experience. Rather than go into a minute analysis, it might be wise just to jump in at the deep end with one of the poems. This one is called Recently, The Fence:

A bit scary to spoon in someone’s mouth,
             the marrow of anyone. We keep

   the birthday party a secret:     Difficult
   to completely look like moon

   when Mother is asking the shape—

   A symbolic posture:     The robin
   is a story of existence.  My lower garments.

             I mean, I haven’t paid attention
             to rhyme recognition.   Which memory was first,

             the chestnut or the blue egg?           Winter

     is half measure. From your ribcage
     to your middle thigh, there’s a kind of radio silence.

              Decidedly unsayable—

                          The mouth opens,
                          has limitation. 


The word games here are extremely sensual and intense. The first phrases alone (“A bit scary to spoon in someone’s mouth”) ricochet in several different directions. “Spooning in someone’s mouth” evokes a lover actually giving his/her mate a taste of something; there is also the unlikely image of two lovers spooning in a third person’s mouth. There’s a pun on the more graphic/literal/gutter-minded “spooge,” which alters the perspective of the poem drastically. At this point, right in the first line, the reader must choose from a plethora of meanings, or make the tricky decision to engage all the levels at once. My next favorite mind-bending Kristen Orser moment in this poem is “We keep/ the birthday party a secret.” For the informed reader, “birthday party” immediately triples: “birthday party” could be a literal birthday party, or a sexual encounter (as in, two lovers in their birthday suits). The doublings and triplings in Orser’s chap are not only phantasmagoric but hilarious. Orser manifests a unique sensibility, and the chap is magnified, gravitas-wise, with each re-reading, even as the mood is comparatively light. She melds the hyper-sexual with the bizarre; I highly recommend this chap to anyone with an interest in sex, or word-games, or both (apart or together).

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