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Slaves to Do These Things Paperback – November 3, 2009
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About the Author
Amy King is the author of SLAVES TO DO THESE THINGS, I'M THE MAN WHO LOVES YOU, and Antidotes for an Alibi, all from BlazeVOX Books, The People Instruments (Pavement Saw Press Chapbook Award), and forthcoming, I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press). She teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and, with Ana Bozicevic, curates the Brooklyn based reading series, The Stain of Poetry.
Top customer reviews
I only mention my own experiences as a poet here because I think that the idea of multiple levels of meaning and the resistance to creating poems that can be interpreted in only one, literal way must be one that Amy King has thought about a great deal. And her solution is one that many--particularly readers who favor tidy, well spelled-out, beginning-middle-end meditations on the vagaries of life--might consider extreme.
OK--it IS extreme. Readers of Ms. King's poems will find no easy answers and no respite, and it's obvious that that's just how she wants it. She is an uncompromising abstract painter with a palette of words, and she knows exactly what she's doing. There is not a single line in any of her poems about which one can say, "Ah, she's talking about..." She sets up expectations with words and immediately dashes the expectations to pieces, playing with imagery and syntax at every turn, forcing the reader to make mental leaps that will either lead her to an epiphany of subjective "meaning", or leave her scratching her head in confusion.
My own responses (and I was aware that they had to do with some of my own history and circumstances) to the poems in Slaves to Do These Things told me that Ms. King was, through her own internal system of symbols and word-play, relating stories of love, lust, illness, bewilderment at the idea of God, and many other things. There are images that recur in some of the poems (ponies come up several times, for example), leading me to believe that there is method to the madness here. But I have never read anything like this, and I mean that as a compliment. Amy King is on a mission to keep poetry from becoming stale and complacent and self-congratulatory. Perhaps she takes it too far at times, but it's always necessary to push limits when one is on a mission.
I'll finish with my favorite passage from the book, from a poem called "The Nature of Nature":
God's straight line
starlit and prone
working the fields
flickers to see by,
to slow down on,
to pass the nights without.
There is no defeatism here, no smallish voice sighing over disappointments , no staccato -cadenced anger replaying old wounds. Amy King comes through these poems not as a survivor nor someone inclined to obscure the bare facts of her life and the reading she brought with her, but rather a poet with a firm grip on the co-agitations of joy and subtler anguish.
The wonder is that there not a place one senses that they've come across someone who thinks it's time to address themselves in a disguised past tense; these are the wonderings, inspections, musings of some one too enthralled with the discussion underway to worry what the final word will be. What hasn't been said yet is nothing to worry about, but to anticipate as a hard-verbed , sexily ironic entree to what one doesn't already know.
King's verse is sharp, witty, moving in ways that are made powerful by the emotional nuance her line breaks contain; there is the sense that everything one knew is wrong, after all, and yet it stands as a reasonably reliable filter through which one may continue their negotiation with the metaphysically inclined whispers--the ghostly reminders objects, places, faces can awake and send a chill down your spine. There is an analytical rigor here, but not cerebralization of one's history. One witnesses the sort of appreciation of personal multi-valence; the meaning of King's life has changed due to the texts she's absorbed, and her experience, in turn, has changed the meanings of the books she has been given.
of letters. Her latest collection of poems reveals why.
Mistress of a mythic surrealism that is laced at times with bawdy
language, Amy combines images like "moldy dark stools in back room
encounters" with "Michaelangelo turning crosshairs to sunshine."
Unusual juxtapositions like these compel the reader to turn the page,
discover more. Divided into five acts, this collection of poetry arcs
like a prize-winning drama, a volume that should be in everyone's
hands and on everyone's shelf!
--The Tower Journal