POST~TWYLA by JACK KIMBALL (1)ALLEN BRAMHALL Reviews
Post~Twyla by Jack Kimball
(Blue Lion Books, West Hartford, CT & Espoo, Finland, 2006)
Jack Kimball's latest book of poetry rates as an event. That statement is the sort that typically comes at the end of a review: a stylized lavishness signaling that the reviewer has finished the job. I lead with the sentence because it bears the thunder of truth (truth as in I actually believe what I just wrote). Or plop it down to how impressed I've been with this work from early meetings with it. I first heard Jack read much of this manuscript last May as part of the Demolicious Reading Series in fair Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jack read solely and extensively it. He was clearly ready for people to hear it. A couple of months later, my wife and I were with Jack at a certain Parnassian coffee shop when Jack, a-brim with excitement for what he hath wrought, invited us to his place to see, on the computer screen, the manuscript, and hear him read it. Okay, so you're thinking, well, isn't that special!. Forthrightly I reply: you betcha. Let me count the reasons why.
First: the book is 346 pages long. The grudging economy of poetry books has trained us to expect them to top out at about 80 pages. I like to see that limit breeched. I like to see poets consider extent. I like, really, to see works exactly as long as they should be. Post~Twyla feels like it is.
Second: Jack sustains his enthusiasm across the expanse of pages. The Muse stayed with him, so Jack must not have offended.
To be more specific, Jack attains a dazzling array of tonal shifts. Some of these poems are funny, some pained, some oblique, some loving, some nasty, all warmly human. These tonal shifts twine together, informing, amplifying and denying each other. The effect is lovely and touching. Human, like I just said.
Twyla consists largely of short poems, poetic snatches, you might say. Here's the first:
Death is old and speech is everywhere
I'll turn the excerpts off, fuck despair.
That's a considerable zap for a beginning. Most of the pieces are about that length, tho some run for pages. The pace is quick. Each piece presents a certain daring, as if it were a trick to confide so briefly. Which it is.
Here's number 7, a sort of effront to effrontery:
You totally screwed up.
If we were Love Boat
You'd be Julie.
Anger and hurt, and Julie from the Love Boat. Makes sense to me. Here's number 28:
Every stroke counts, but he power of
now – it's been downgraded to junk
Everything is illuminated, cheater, yet
Like, why is Hello Kitty so angry?
Tastes philosophical to me, but in a funny way. But that's only my read. You can make your own proofs.
Quoting Twyla feels like zero sum: there's too much to highlight. And oh, by the way, Jack considers the full 346 a poem, not a collection thereof. Feel free to argue the point, but recognize how themes return, twisting yet reflective.
Mixed with these poetic gems are what Jack has referred to as reviews. Yup. These reviews are just as fleeting, oblique, serious, thoughtful and funny as the poems. Might divagation be the right word? Divagation is always the right word. Jack treats of Alice Notley, Rod Smith, Alli Warren, among others, great lesser knowns all, without jostling our give-us-another-poem-here intrepidness as we roam with dedication the many pages. It works, I'm telling you it works.
For all its aroma of grand oeuvre here, a term I don't use lightly, Post~Twyla is just plain fun to hear and fun to read. I give you one more brief glint:
Rosa Parks's eccentricity
Makes it easy to underestimate
I have given you the scantest of maps for a vast and delightful territory that I hope you feel inspired to eploe.
Allen Bramhall: sharing a birthday with Herman Melville, Jerry Garcia and Lt William Clark is only one of my many accomplishments. I am a lifelong righthanded resident of Massachusetts, have published one book with more to come, and I paint. I am traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AHB, and am open to a leveraged buyout.