The KGB reading last night spotlighted Danielle Pafunda and Carline Knox, both recently published by two independent presses whose books I'm always looking out for: Bloof Books and Wave Books.
Before reading from My Zorba, Pafunda waved her magenta book (with a hatchet on the cover) at the audience and advocated "very, very pink: good for cocktail parties and dark alleys." Then, in a confident and poised style, she read from the beginning of her new collection. If the sentence is a tree, than Pafunda has chopped up the trunk, rearranged the branches, and clipped the limbs together with bird beaks and candles to form poems that rustle and glow.
These poems feature a young female narrator who's constantly engaged by but also in conflict with Zorba, a gender-shifting, controlling, older, alter-ego/invisible playmate. In some sense, Zorba is a guide through a baffling adult world who encourages testing boundaries of etiquette and customs ("She devoured / a [nightbird] and chucked its bones from the [precipice]," when others choose to repress gut-desire and awe. Yet in other scenes, Zorba manipulates the narrator, "When I tried to cover the hair with pancake, Zorba intercepted" or forces her into roles that create priorities she doesn't necessarily accept ("She asked for a profit margin"). In living with and then in exorcizing Zorba from her body/psyche, she battles the urge to internalize the standards and irrationality of the familiar. The process of extrication (if that's possible) and realization of culpability or positioning is agonizing and exhilarating: "When Zorba prayed for me, I ducked."
Knox, who described her poems as "mouthfuls," is also a poet who can make a recipe for a salad seem like a scientific experiment (as in, for example, her poem, "Salad"). Knox read from her sixth book of poetry, Quaker Guns. She floated from poems that began with her husband bolting up in bed after dreaming of a statue of Mary made of rubber foam to a poem ending with "Oh, Dorothy Parker! oh, Dorothy Oh, a fine actor!" Many of her poems seem to originate in a setting that seems domestic or mundane -- a husband in bed, the death of a dog, the drive to donate used books - and then shift into lists, facts, word play, and observations that veer away from the traditional, creating an erratic arc the reader wants to follow.
-- Julia Cohen