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"Poetry As Universal As Music"
" Ovarian twists new and selected poems" Anyssa Kim Fly By Night Press POB 20693, New York, N.Y. 2003 $14
Review by Hal Sirowitz Poet Laureate of Queens, New York
Someone once said about Steve Cannon - Publisher of 'Fly By Night Press' and Founding Director of 'The Gathering of the Tribes, Inc.' - that he publishes whoever sits the closest to him on his couch. When you read Anyssa Kim's book, 'ovarian twists, new and selected poems' you realize that comment was made in bitterness. It doesn't matter where Kim sat - she could have sat on the floor or in the next room - her work was meant to find a publisher. In fact, if I was sitting next to Steve on his couch I'd gladly give up my seat to Kim because she's a master poet. She's like a feminine version of the great haiku poet Basho, but in an urban setting where one needs to use more words.
Kim writes from the heart. Her poems have this driving rhythm - rising and falling but never faltering.
In another reality we are indistinguishable
The flesh we wear, a barrier we carry
Created by human folly
Call it Experience
Out of a single possibility
There's sex, pathos, joy, and humor in her poetry. She serves them together like she's making a soup you never tasted before. You never know whether the next poem will make you laugh, make you cry, or just knock you out. You don't have to read the biographical notes at the end of the book to know she's a superb musician. Her poems rock.
From "gypsy airs":
see saw violin slide up scale
legs of blooming, circular, tips around
She has great range. She can go from love to hate, then back to love in a single note. (Though she does have to use a few lines to do it.) She gives a lot of inflection to her images. It's hard to write about her poetry without discussing music. She has tender love poems but what left a stronger impression on me were her male bashing ones.
Slip through grub fingers, can't reach me, I'm
mercury. Quick as a
bubble pop black all over your face. And you can't
wipe me off your
lips. I'm popping. I'm spreading and bleeding all
conscience. You are dreaming.
Go away ugly man. Go away.
I agree with her sentiments. I'm a man and I didn't always have the best intentions. I had a lot of excuses. But Kim's poetry cuts through the excuses lovers make as easily as a knife cuts through partially melted butter. You can't help but take her side. Like gospel songs her poems are about the yearning to be free of hypocrisy and other constraints. Her unique use of line-breaks make some of her poems seem to soar. She's able to step out of whatever situation she's in and look at it from a higher vantage point. Her discipline has made her get to the mountaintop. Once she's up there she doesn't come down until the next poem. Finally, she has written some of the best poems about discrimination I've ever read. I can't see how a bigot could read them and not feel ashamed.
From "eye language, 1984":
italian last name? (squint)
my mother is italian and nobody
in my family looks like you you look
funny how can you see out of those
eyes they are so small I can't see out
of eyes when I get them that tiny
Some historians have called the Koreans the Jews of Asia. (Kim was born in Seoul, Korea and was adopted and raised in the United States.) Throughout their history they have been attacked. Korea was once occupied by China and Japan. Maybe George Bush will invade part of the country next. Yet, you can tell by her poetry that she possesses an inner peace. She's not the type of person you'd want to attack. She'd probably write a poem about you in which you'd look bad. In her moving poem,'for Samira' you can tell by how gracefully she got into the head of the victim that she's a survivor who's not afraid to fight for her other people's rights. Kim is in the front-line of the battle to free poetry from the control of White men. It's a difficult battle because most of those men are either half-dead - they use poetry to repeat themselves - or are already dead. You feel guilty saying bad things about the dead because one day we're going to join them and also be dead. I feel certain that Kim is well on the way of leaving a body of work that people will continue to read even when she may no longer be physically among us.