Roadworthy Creature, Roadworthy Craft
by Kate Magill
40 Poems/ 112 Pages/ $15.00
Purchase on Amazon
Reviewed by: Ed Bennett
Many readers envision poetry as a cerebral exercise. The chosen subject is examined in its different facets and these are expounded in elevated language. The subject can be lyrical or narrative with a strong pull toward interior monolog. In recent years, the outgoing “barbaric yawp” of Walt Whitman has evolved into the internalized meanderings of Eliot’s Prufrock to the singular voice of the confessional poet. Fortunately, poetry seems to be coming full circle with the present day poetry slams where Whitman’s sensual cry is combined with the exuberance of performance art. Poetry was always meant to be performed, whether it be in a salon among the well mannered or in the street, declaimed by an itinerant Homer with a story to tell.
Kate Magill’s book, Roadworthy Creature, Roadworthy Craft, is not a “book” of poems in the usual sense. The poems within are somewhat longer than usual and the reader cannot help but to be taken up by the language. These are performance poems, the work of a poet on stage describing anything from a warm memory of a deceased grandmother to rain to baking bread, all in rapid succession. The poems are not always directed at the reader. One almost feels as if they were overhearing a curt, snappish dialog between the author and another object.
In her poem “In other words”, she opens with:
“We have grown competitive, this poem and I.”
She then continues with a withering description of the poem from her vantage:
“ And it simply grins:
not the gaping maw of a blank page,
but a toothy disarray, so many fractured phrases,
poorly parsed, halfarsed, a months worth
of scattered text, tenpoint, single spaced,
vague punctuation, rife with slant rhyme, faint assonance,
no manicure on this one. No make-up.”
One feels that the author has grown beyond competitiveness as she picks at the shortcomings of the poem. At this point, the tone and the meter chnge as she begins part two:
“You draw a distinction I don’t understand
between the philosopher and the artist.
It startles me.
You reveal to me my tendency
to conflate the two,
my desire to breathe art into theory,
theory into art.
Is this my inner utilitarian?”
The way the poem’s tone turns from criticism to self examination is worthy of a Shakespaerian soliloquy. We are allowed to see the effect the poem has, both in its chafing raw form as well as its ability to bring the poet to a reflection of her own shortcomings. The creative process emerges not as a one sided intellectual endeavor as much as a collaboration, at times difficult, between poem and poet. The final lines reflect the desired outcome of the collaboration:
“I don’t want the masterpiece.
I want the stutters and shrugs.”
One can almost visualize the curtain coming down as the poet takes a bow.
There are forty poems in this book, each with a unique take on both subject and voice. If you are looking for Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” you will not find it here. These poems are of a more primitive type when itinerant poets brought their poems to the people with the elements of their narrative equally as important as the words. It is a style as ancient as Homer and as contemporary as a poetry slam. Kate Magill’s, Roadworthy Creature, Roadworthy Craft is a collection of poems made for the spoken word. This unique book is well worth the time spent reading, or, more importantly, speaking it, if only for the sensuous feel of the words caressing your ears.