in the bird museum
Dusie Press Books, 2008
Kristy Bowen's poems are sexy and smart. The poems in in the bird museum fool around with dictionaries, notebooks, concordances, and the ways that bodies get lost and found in real and imaginary places. There are dance halls and graveyards here, footnotes and invocations. One poem asserts, " I suggest everything is a metaphor for sex. Even the bird." These poems let us know pleasure and danger are often in close proximity. These poems are inhabited by girls and women who move through the world with a sense of urgency, and Bowen invites us to join them. Or rather, she INSISTS we do. This book is delicious.
Kristy Bowen’s sparkling and spellbinding poems are full of the things of households and Victorian interiors: corsets, envelopes, books, hooks, and spoons. Bowen’s vigilant attention to the danger and fragility of these environments is manifest in her description of the beings (women, girls, and birds) who inhabit or are bought into these spaces. These are the muses of Bowen’s museum (“a seat or shrine of the muses”). Like a careful curator, Bowen gathers and assembles stories, scenes, and objects related to her subjects. The result is a densely packed cabinet of gothic wonders and haunting relics. Reading these poems makes one keenly aware of the inticacies, intimacies, and inconsistencies staged in the theaters of domestic spaces.
I was apprenticed to the frenzied atmosphere, the verandas that open into dark wind. Kristy Bowen is apprenticed to the “frenzied atmosphere” and in it she finds the crucial minutiae, in it she finds skirts of night and a woman’s heart as a wind-up bird. Bowen’s poetry is where we go to read that heart—as old- time paper valentine and as fist of flesh: valved and valued, the bric a brac and phobias it contains in each of its Cornellian chambers and the placards labeling each exhibit are letters written with the bones of birds. So it is, so it was that Here, we came for the ghost of the word/ inside the other word: and here, in The Bird Museum we are haunted by all that is visual as it is visceral and Bowen, playful, brilliant, curator, reminds us that this place is a synaesthete’s playground--where the eye partakes in the delicious but no less-so than the ear, for here: If you listen, you can hear the holes in the alphabet, sounds lit by the lamps of our bones. Like birds we might even rise, our lamp-lit bones: luminous and (as Bowen does here so often,) fly in a perfect line.