Monday, January 2, 2012

Stefene Russell reviews my chapbook "The Shape of a Man"

So like I was saying, Amy VanDonsel and I have co-curated a group art show where I'll release my new chapbook of poetry on Intagliata Imprints (printed by Firecracker Press): The Shape of a Man. The art show, also called The Shape of a Man, goes down 7-11 p.m. Friday, January 6 at Mad Art Gallery, 2727 So. 12th St. in St. Louis. The event will be a potluck catered by men who cook.

To drum up a little publicity, I sent my manuscript out to some poets I admired and asked them for a blurb. I have already shared the review by Missouri poet laureate David Clewell; here is the response by my dear friend and colleague Stefene Russell.

Chris King’s Shape of a Man channels a multitude of voices, and describes a number of different places. But the poems are anything but reportage—Wounded Knee, Manhattan, and South St. Louis become places-beyond-places, a little bit mythic or haunted. Even corn, that grain that’s been reduced to a metaphor for all things small-town, wholesome and pedestrian, gets taken back to its magical roots: “Mother of bread, father of beer, common face/on the pyramid walls, corn/whiskey, corn pone, you could sustain us alone.”

Like the earliest poets, Chris King is both writer and musician, and builds his lines to ring inside a reader’s ear. He is also a teller of stories—ones that stun you with their sadness, beauty and strangeness, like the woman who uses her bed as ironing board and burns her lover, who wears his wound gladly, because it means she’s branded—claimed—him.

Though his poems are not the average lyrical domestic still life, that’s not to say they float in some ionosphere, or don’t sound like they were written on Earth. On the contrary, they are earthy, randy, often hilarious, disarming in their lack of sentimentality. They don’t let anyone off the hook easily, including the poet himself.

On the other hand, it is rare to find poems marked with such generosity, or such a largeness of spirit, where you feel that the poet is writing for all of us, even when he’s writing first-person.

—Stefene Russell


Stefene will join me on Friday when we do a brief (8-8:30 p.m.) poetry performance at Mad Art. I'll perform two short set sof duets with musicians — Fred Friction (spoons), Roy Gokenbach (electric guitar) and Josh Weinstein (double blass, clarinet) — with Stefene performing one manly poem in the middle. Hope to see you there!


The image is one of my paintings on vinyl records incorporating quotes from my poems that will be in the Shape of a Man art show.

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