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Sunday February 26, 2017
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K. E. Allen

 

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see otherwise. This process of publishing certainly needs no legitimization, and even such a prestigious organization as the Poetry Society of America runs a chapbook contest.

K. E. Allen, graduate of the U-M's M.F.A. program in creative writing and now a resident of Chelsea, won last year's contest with a complex and ambitious collection entitled Woman in a Boat. The introduction to this slim volume, written by judge Robert Creeley, tells us, helpfully, that in these poems "no right and wrong way can be argued," although "one is in an unremittingly particular world."

The poet herself tells us in the first poem that "belief is perception," and much later, amid a long poem filled with images and words of the sea, she says, "All images but they're all we've got." But Allen doesn't leave us only with philosophical statements about the nature of her art: she creates the images that justify the statements. Those images are often captured in rich sentences that bend syntax and roll words around with an obvious sensual pleasure:

When an oyster opens wide
under a full harvest moon —
a clean white beak
spilling over with seed and pearl —
a bird will toss a twig into the shell
to keep it from closing,
to feed, to riot.


The rich and evocative image almost lets us forget what is really happening at the end of that sentence: the gull is tearing the oyster apart in a feeding frenzy!

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