To mark National Poetry Month, In other Words is being guest-edited by rob mclennan. Throughout April, rob will present the work of dozens of poets he thinks deserve readers' attention, as seen through the eyes of their fellow poets.
Today: Stephen Collis on Kim Minkus
Kim Minkus's poems - first in 9 Freight, and now in Thresh - are minimalist wonders, compressing themselves into small inked areas amidst pure white pages. "Dichtung=Condensare" was a formation of Pound's I still find quite useful: poetry is condensation. Minkus's poems cannot get much more condensed than these in Thresh where, in the book's title sequence, poetic language is reduced to something of a base unit - the metaphoric (or proto-metaphoric) connection between two elements. Like a Medieval poet's "kennings," Minkus forms impossible compounds to do just what the best poetry must: express the inexpressible. So we have "shock gang," "black swath," and "bull wheel" - "pound purpose," "soft crush," and "full flog."
Taking the poet's title as a metaphor for the poetic process, we might assume that the "threshing" of language in poetry is undertaken to separate the grain from the chaff - thus getting rid of "excess" language and revealing only the pure gold grain of condensed thought and feeling. However, the flail in Minkus's hand, beating chaff and grain alike, leaves a scattering of both for the reader to sift. This is because the point here is not about the product (grain) or waste (chaff) but rather the process itself, in all its sadistic and sexual glory, the winnowing of the self down as it chafes against the strictures of gender, sexuality, economics, and history. Everywhere in this poetry we feel the lash of time on the fragility of (especially female) bodies. Everywhere it leaves a scattering of words, like the gasp of suddenly struck flesh.
To read an excerpt from Thresh, click below:
Photo of Kim Minkus by John W. MacDonald