Amy King's most recent books are Slaves to Do These Things and I’m the Man Who Loves You, both from Blazevox. She is currently preparing a book of interviews with the poet, Ron Padgett, and co-edits Esque Magazine with Ana Bozicevic.
"'Rarely have the nude and the cooked been so neatly joined' as in Amy King’s I Want to Make You Safe. If 'us,' 'herons,' and 'dust' rhyme, then these poems rhyme. If that makes you feel safe, it shouldn’t. Amy King’s poems are exuberant, strange, and a bit grotesque.”
“Vulnerability, fragility, and anxiety are all flushed out into the open here and addressed with such strong sound and rhythm that we recognize a resilient, defiant strength within them. King puts relentless pressure on forces seemingly beyond our reach and, in bringing them closer, exposes their own vulnerable centers."
“Amy King’s poems seem to encompass all that we think of as the “natural” world, i.e. sex, sun, love, rotting, hatching, dreaming, especially in the wonderful long poem “This Opera of Peace.” She brings these abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living."
Amy King’s I Want To Make You Safe is densely packed with “the songs of undiscovered tribes” extant by way of versions of an urban feminist tonguing. Led by a brand of narrative that is not traditional at all, these poems are “an eye to cancel [a] planet’s core out.”
In this book I experienced pleasant dislocations. A slow suddenness wherein what had previously been my own light was replaced (not squelched or snuffed out but strategically altered). This happened by way of the quality of the language (rich with shock and jolt regarding sound: (“this immersion has made me a model / for your captivity digest, a cavity” and “she used to dive the veins / for other steeds closer to the bone” and “milk is a mythical moth” and “scream on fire, sirened).
The sound in these poems interacted with their content (“submission is the only window” and “the grief of winter without seed” and “I cry/ to remember what I saw” and “the destiny you choose is the one you live through” and “to torment your undone sin”) in ways that created in me a very specific sense of non-ease. Non-ease was existent in me because — how am I to integrate this manifold confession? There are so many inclusions (“are we still talking to the same god”) that I would argue are certainly necessary) and so many diversions in these poems (“I don’t want to hide my wine” [. . .] “the wine from which we drink free will” [. . .] “please reattach the orifice if / I’m ever to hold your love”). Gorgeous diversions to fill the space as I try to reach to meet this work and then to divulge.
How best to divulge from something so gorgeously divergent?
This sense of non-ease that I describe above made me vulnerable, which made me able to be swept up and carried off by King’s own core declarative (“I want to make you safe”). I am saying that it is precisely the destabilizations that occurred in this book, that made me vulnerable enough to need to be made safe again — and I let this happen because “to give yourself always keeps / yourself still.”
In this way there is deep alchemy! Alchemy by agency.
Next I have to admit a pleasant exhaustion in reading these poems. This does not surprise me post contact with King’s other books: Slaves to Do These Things, Antidotes for an Alibi, I’m The Man Who Loves You (and other chapbooks). In King’s work I generally find myself being consumed by a vast and incremental longing that is rooted in examinations that are current, and I find that that longing presents itself in such beautiful curves of language (“follow stigmata for dust” [. . .]“we have always been the first fruit and the first to rot”).
Stasis is impossible in King’s I Want To Make You Safe. In this book there were so many figures (Natalie Portman, Oedipus, Tim Modotti, God/s, Roman Jakobson, Mahler, Popeye, Ossian) and pledges (David Wojnarowicz) and presences and pronouns. In fact, there felt to me like an extreme importance of pronouns as bridges throughout the poems (“you think I am she. She is you and everyone who adjusts too well” [. . .]“here am I / is he” [. . .] “how much we want we”). Yes, truly, a system of wes conducted my read of this juicy and taxing book!
The poems also rubbed me as feminist via their obsessions with women and women speaking and the vulnerabilities of gender positions and what is taken during the performance of those (“I miss my DNA” [. . .] “I practice identity” [. . .] “I am that love you light yourself with / and my gender is powerless in this”). But regarding this aspect I saw King’s poems’ interests in the large spectrum of woman, not only (though certainly not excluding) in fringe communities where women fuck women. I sense these poems have obsession with “a branch [that takes] root/ and gulp[s] the sleeve of the planet in signature orgasm / Eve.”
The poems in I Want To Make You Safe felt to me like anything could exist in them, and though that is true they did not feel like poems of surplus or excess or even secretion. They felt very whittled and scripted by way of the correlation that I have mentioned throughout this review — the precise correlation between sound and content. I almost hear some spoken word in these poems and this makes a longing in me to hear them performed. I wonder if King has ever considered making a CD of this inherent amass and awash?