Wednesday, May 6, 2020

SUBMERGE :: K.Y. Robinson

I've mentioned here before that I'm not a great poetry reader, but that I also love reading poetry. Poetry is one genre where it's harder to find what your groove might be when the form is so amorphous. That's also what I love about it. Within a collection there will be pieces that wow me and pieces that I can't figure out for the life of me. But all have meaning to the author, often express raw emotion, and can contain snippets of beauty I can take away even though the piece as a whole escapes me.

Such was the way with K.Y. Robinson's Submerge, which, as a whole, I really enjoyed. I didn't know anything about Robinson when I picked this book, I just liked the cover (shocking). Inside, Robinson is billed as an introverted writer with a journalism degree. She "draws from personal experiences as a woman of color and trauma and mental illness survivor."

This collection certainly reflects that.perspective, with pieces speaking to loss, depression, self-harm, violence, and racism. Broken into three parts (Immerse, Drown, and Emerge) that speak of change with metaphors of water, Robinson's collection does not have a happy ending, but it has waves of healing, strength, and courage.

One of my favorites ended up being a piece I completely misread in hilarious fashion. In the Immerse section, it's called "ode to my toy friends" and begins like this: "oh the mechanical miracles that never break my heart or ignore my text messages." I totally got that. How inanimate objects can sometimes be better friends than people. It took me back to when I was a kid and the Breyer horses and other items that soothed me.

Then I read further and realized I was both on point and waaaay off base. "to the bullet killing the craving in a dark alley between the sheets. the rabbit hopping happily in my valley." Oh. We are talking about DIFFERENT TOYS HERE. That kind of encapsulates poetry for me. How intent can differ from interpretation and yet the art and the power remain. That's why I love poetry and keep reading. I may miss the mark, but it hits a mark for ME. Maybe that's the best kind of poetry.

It's impossible to pick a favorite piece. One of the most powerful to me is called "how are you?" The text is "i'm fine," but is footnoted. The footnote says this: "i am not fine. i'm drowning in my thoughts. i cried myself to sleep last night and it took everything in me just to get out of bed this morning. i'm exhausted. i feel hopeless and alone. i feel like no one understands. help me. help me. help me."

How many times have we answered "I'm fine" to this question, when what we really feel is the footnote? Or some version of it? I wish we were better at communicating our pain. At our desire for help, a hand, some hope. How many times have I heard "I'm fine" and not thought about a potential footnote?

STREET SENSE:  I recommend this collection to anyone who enjoys poetry, is dipping their toes in poetry, or has never read poetry. There is a trigger warning, so take heed of that.

A FAVORITE PASSAGE:  This piece is short and sums up the main theme of the collection.

duality of water

a life-giving force
can become a life taker
with each swallowing wave
this is the duality of water

COVER NERD SAYS:  I bought this solely because of the cover, so it was obviously a winner with me. I love the palette and soft nature of the ink. I think this image also shows the duality of water. Is the woman rising from the water or giving herself to it? Despite the light, soft beauty, this art is also very serious and heavy. Really well done.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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