Kim Parko lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with her husband and dog. She teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is the author of the chapbook The Rest of the World Seems Unlikely and the poetry collection Cure All, available from Caketrain.
"To call these pieces unique isn’t enough. With her fractured shards of advice, sweet little nightmares, tunneled eyes and sprouted scales, Kim Parko presents a twisting puzzle of fire blights and lonely spines. This book will crawl into your house.”
"Parko’s Cure All is a wonderful combination of striking images, clever word play, and personal heartbreak—all simmering together and shining in a book that is sure to make many ‘best-of-the-year’ lists.”
"Uncanny and perverse, the poetic fictions of Kim Parko’s Cure All act as electrodes to stimulate unsuspected and possibly long-unused yet sublimely meaningful circuitry in the brain.”
In times of confusion, it is best to stay in the pocket of a bigger animal. There you can be alive and safe in a confined, dark space. Pick a pocket that is only slightly larger than you are so that you can move around a bit. Pick an animal that is kind and will not eat its young if its young appear to be sickly. Your confusion might be mistaken for sickliness. When you’re in the pocket, just stay curled up. You might even want to suck your toes. Don’t wear clothes in the pocket; the pocket will serve as your clothes. The pocket will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. Hopefully the pocket is worn over the animal’s heart. You will hear only the noise of the heart. You don’t want to bring your pocket radio, because all you need is the noise of the heart. If the animal’s heartbeat quickens while you are in the pocket, stay calm. Now that the animal is holding you, she will protect you with her life. If the animal falls to the ground and you notice the pocket growing cold, peek your head out and look carefully around you. Has the danger passed? Are there any other animal pockets for you to crawl into?
-Kim Parko, from Cure All
Megan Alpert: The character in the first part of Cure All was so vivid. As I moved from poem to poem, I felt like I was reading about this person who was unique in her sensitivity to the world. And then later, in the poem “Rapist,” when she finds a way to cure the rapist, rather than running from him, I felt that I was reading about the grown up version of the girl from the first several poems. In the book, when you use the word “I” is it always the same “I” or are you drifting in and out of different characters?
Kim Parko: I think that it’s the same in the sense that I have this sort of central character that’s often at the base of what I’m writing about. But it’s not like I’m thinking “This is Patty and this is what happens to Patty here and then this happens to her later in life.” It’s not that kind of character. It’s interesting, though, what you said about her being extremely sensitive — that’s something that I work with a lot and that’s probably a reflection of my own understanding of being in the world the way I am, that is just naturally coming through this character. And so I think when I put that character, that persona, into extremely difficult or painful situations, it’s a way of grappling with how it feels to be that kind of a person. So the “I” doesn’t necessarily always have to be the same person, it’s more the essence of what that character is running through those personas in a very fundamental way.
MA: The situations you put her in are painful, but she always seems to survive them.
KP: Yeah, I think it’s about trying to show how overwhelming or harsh the world can be if you’re especially sensitive. And that it’s not really a weakness, it’s not about an idea of victim — I mean there’s some sort of power in that sensitivity as well, so that that character can feel a lot and can be overwhelmed and can go through intense emotional states but that at the end, it’s just a rawness of dealing with the world and ultimately being able to survive it. And what that experience brings to one’s perception of the world.
MA: How did the book come together? Were you always writing these pieces as part of a whole work or did you gather together disparate pieces of writing? Did you always know that the book was going to be about cures?
KP: I’ve always been interested in the idea of the body. The body is so easily broken and so vulnerable to the physical world. When I was five, my favorite book was a book of skin disorders and I used to love going through it and looking at the pictures. So I’ve always been fascinated by what can happen to the body and ways that the body can heal.
In terms of the way the book was put together with the interludes of different cures, the interludes were part of the structure I submitted to Joseph Reed at Caketrain. We worked together on some of the organizational scheme and on creating some cohesion with the characters and settings in the individual pieces.
MA: You have an undergraduate degree in fine art and you work at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Has visual art influenced your writing?
KP: Definitely. I’m extremely visual. It’s easy for me to conjure up these worlds and I see them very vividly. Visual art can be frustrating to me because it’s a lot harder for me to create that internal space than it is with the written word. With visual art, I’m much more limited in what I can actually create. When I draw, it’s a similar process to writing in that I usually start with a line or a form or a shape and embellish from there without any preconceived idea of exactly where the piece is going to go. It’s similar to my writing in that it always ends up being a form or a creature or world. But with writing I can create a much larger scope. It can take me hours and hours to draw one of these creature-forms I’ve been working on, whereas my writing is just populated with all these creatures and settings.
MA: I’m thinking of your poem “Push,” where a girl grows green fur on her breasts. There are so many weirdly strong images like that in Cure All. Do you ever start with an image and feel uncertain about whether it should be a poem or an object of art? Do you have to work your way through multiple art forms to find out what something wants to be?
KP: Lately I’ve become much more interested in mixed media performance renderings of the stories that I’m working on. I’ve done some costuming and some performing of the scenes in the manuscript I’ve just finished. So I’m working on how these different modes of expression are interrelated for me and how they might have a much clearer relationship. Through turning my characters into visual art, I gain a stronger understanding of them. So if there’s a character that has some sort of strong physical attribute that you wouldn’t normally see in the “real” world, I have to think how will I translate that, how will I make it into a sculpture or costume or an actual object of art.
MA: In several poems you mention a character or object called The Curtain. Could you talk a little bit about that idea and where it came from?
KP: Something that I work on with my writing is the idea of an all-powerful being—God or whatever, just the notion of that sort of existence and what it means to my existence. The Curtain is the thing that is obscuring what’s really there, but it also is what’s really there. So it’s both things. It’s the boundary, but it’s also the thing beyond the boundary.
I often grapple with that idea, seeing what is beyond this reality, what is beyond what I can observe or see. I really like thinking about it. In my newest work I have a character called No One In Particular. People are always asking No One In Particular these questions and No One In Particular is always not answering. But it’s present. Just because it’s been named, it’s there.