Thursday, November 19, 2009


Throughout his new collection of poems, Personationskin, Karl Parker confronts and subverts language, ignores grammar, uses a slurred conversational tone that combines words, distorts tenses, stirs up time, and generally plays havoc with the reader's sensibilities.

Which, it turns out in the end, creates a pretty wild and interesting ride.

At first reading, one finds little subtlety in the poems within Personationskin, Parker's first full-length collection that follows Harmstorm, his chapbook from Lame House Press, now out-of-print.

Consider the opening of "Autobiographia":
That was prettymuch the story of my life
in profile. I keep thinking about glass, but don't know what to say
when continually thugs come to me in a dark alley
disguised as you, only a you made of glass
shattering back together. But that's all behind me now...
Or in a later line of a second poem with the same name as the first, "Autobiographia":
I was originally incarcerated for my efforts to reassemble
I mean resemble--the prison.
The voices that inhabit Parker's poems sometimes claim to be a prison escapee, a thief, a toy glue factory manager, a "Catholic Roman," a government-sponsored sparrow slayer; or, then again, these voices may just be experiencing a different, more anxiety-ridden reality than many of us do.

Personationskin (Reston, Virginia: No Tell Books, 2009), contains several realities, including some that appear conventional, almost beautiful, such as that depicted in the final line of "The Early Days":
Eventually, swarms overran us. Our leaders
of course, have never lived here, and so could not know
not for many years at any rate, how they had changed
the nature of our quiet at night.
Or in the tenderness that is found in the last line of the opening of "The Recent Teachings":
The recent teachings have been, so far as
I can ascertain, strict commentaries
on the consumption of solid and liquid things
in addition to telling why we feel like trying
to touch lightning almost all the time
even though it only comes in storms.
In the end, a close reading of these 80-plus poems reveals many delicate nuances ("Weeds wreck an angle I am taking to arrive / somewhere close to here, transformed among friends. / Another self, another time of day, another sound.") mixed with jarring lines of angst ("Hope was joined in the ground. Everybody flowed. / Since we bind to occurring, this one's hard.").

Karl Parker, in an interview a few years back, noted a few writers that he returns to frequently include John Berryman, Paul Celan, Gertrude Stein, and John Ashberry, in addition to Franz Kafka--the latter is especially no surprise as Parker's words seem to be transforming as he writes, and as we read. He has said in "Credo" that he wants to "do a kind of green and dangling nondamage to language" and has said elsewhere that he wishes "to bring poetry to people in its charged multiplicitous unfoldings." With Personationskin he does just that.

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