&s by C. Kubasta. Finishing Line Press, 2016.
Reviewed by Tori Grant Welhouse
And is a conjunction, a connecting word. And brings together things and not things. And sequences action, compounds sentences, links sensations and thoughts. In Kubasta’s latest chapbook &s, she channels all the connecting power of and to change and magnify meaning, turning over words and their order like tarot cards, with a logic that is archetypal and carnal.
Three of the poems have ampersands in their titles, including the first and last poems. In the first poem, “Autonomy & the Importance of Empty Space,” the piercing effects of a migraine can be seen through the many ands/&s that abound within as it travels elsewhere. From the first stanza:
It began as a cold spot, between the shoulder blades, as if
the shoulder blades were wings
and air separated two structures
of bone and feather; you could feel it
when you leaned against the wall.
The following lines stick out, as they show clear transmogrification happening; melding of body, memory and found text:
Accompanied with uncanny dreams she could not her
The lines below are from quoted from Giovanni’s Room, with the encountered text becoming a rubric for reexamining “moorings.” The poem flips between past and present along with the givens and the not-so-given. Kubasta reveals her surprise atthe love between her grandparents revealed to her in lost letters and learning how they “scaffolded” their own expectations to be together.
People can’t, unhappily, invent their own mooring posts, their lovers and
their friends any more than they can invent their parents.
Kubasta writes about the big ands in life ranging from love and sex, family and betrayal,relationships and power, and sickness and health. Her poems are not linear,possibly due to either the hybridizationshe loves to play with or her fascination with language. In “Conjugation,” she states, “I invest in grammar as metaphor”. She is not afraid to take the legs off language, to consider the wriggling, writing poems that deviate in a unique and wonderful and long-cut way.
&s is a very enjoyable book, and the reader will feel changed and reinvested after reading it despite(or maybe because of?) the shifting and sifting the poems inform. There is a thoughtful and strenuous poetic consciousness at work, making connections, interpreting the cards, laying out experience side by side, and the proximity an important part of the telling. This can be seen in “A Left/Shoe”:
Memory and death and family estranged: it is perfectly easy
to love you, to see what’s worth keeping: like the stories,
and the anger, and the photographs, and the knowing,
Which you haven’t got.
&s is worth every penny, for the reader will want to read it repeatedly.