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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Whoa by Rebecca Byrkit

By Rebecca Byrkit
Kariboux, LTD, 2012. Poetry.
Review by Debrah Lechner

The Masterful Work of an Enthralling Woman.

Rebecca Byrkit is a poet whose work appeared in many publications, and who published three books of poetry previous to Whoa, including the acclaimed zealand. Whoa collects poems from all three volumes, and the result is an exhilarating ride through years of observation, experience, and experimentation.

I enjoyed a strong feeling of identification with the poems, which are narrative enough to draw you in, yet abstract enough to leave room for the reader to re-imagine themselves through Byrkit’s voice. Her voice varies through the passage of time, and in differing circumstances, of course: all the more to offer an invitation to revisit the past, the present, and the various futures you may have imagined. New vistas emerge; maybe a new gestalt.

In other words, Rebecca Byrkit’s poetry is dope.

A list of some of the poems I enjoy most may give a taste of what this collection has to offer:

“Naps, or Call of the Wild Parts I and II”
“The Totally Beloved Enemy”
“The Radio You”
“I Drink Alone”
“Perpetuating Limbo”
“No-Tel Motel Tao”
“A Quiescence”
“The Available Country of Women”
“Epithalamion: A Lyric for Africa”
“What Blessed Anarchy Devolved of the Modern Stage”

Byrkit has a strong connection to music. Poetry is easily compared to music, but the ability to confidently evoke it, as she does, is rare, and delicious. I relished the effective and mood-inducing use of call and response, iterations, and unexpected voices entering like new instruments.

In one poem, the phrase, “lick back to it,” was repeated at intervals: The word play of the musical definition of the word “lick” combined with the erotic meaning was glorious. That poem almost produced some kind of drumming in the room.

I also admire the strong voice of a woman who knows herself well, as in Effluvial Mood.

When I am positive that nobody loves me, I despise
All musical instruments. I can't endure vacuum cleaner
Attachments. I hate Yeats, my lovely mother, and all the attention
Jesus got. I avoid, wildly annoyed by, great black people.

When nobody loves me, I am positive of it. I devise
An impossible Fahrenheit. A heat that could dope
The very Duke of the Dark. A degree so high,
Relentless. I boil orchestrations, scald problems, scorch videophones.

I’m very much looking forward to the deluxe broadside edition of this Whoa, which will be hand-illustrated by her brother James Ward Byrkit, an edgy and well-respected artist who has done much work in film as well as in other media.


Rebecca Byrkit teaches creative writing and literature at Arizona State University. To read more or to order Whoa, visit her publisher, Kariboux Ltd. Byrkit will be reading poems and signing books at the release party for Whoa on Sunday, September 23 at Letterpress Central of Chandler, 6185 W. Detroit Street, at 4:00 pm. She will be joined by poet Cynthia Hogue and AmeriCamera, featuring poet and musician T.R. Hummer and guitarist Billy Cioffi.

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