Donna Kuhn's typical girl
Donna Kuhn's typical girl (2006 Fine Tooth Press) is anything but. What is considered typical when the poet is constantly viewing the world through a 64-Crayola color spectrum while engaging the id, the superego, the ego, the right and the left sides of the brain in a Sisyphian debate of "Who's on First?"
Kuhn is a painter whose portraits of big-eyed technicolor waifs (www.onlinewebart.com/donna/gallery.html) echo the primitivism found in the later works of Paul Gauguin's Tahitian Lolitas. Inevitably, her artistic eye has worked its way into her poetry. Kuhn is a "visual poet" who shamelessly employs gimmicky literary devices to get the reader's attention, in particular the removal/substitution of vowels from/for pronouns: "u" for "you," "yr" for "your," etc. Her favorite metaphors of horses, the moon, birds, birds, birds, seahorses, and more birds permeate the pages of every poem until I am afraid to:
a) go to the zoo/planetarium/aquarium
b) read Stephen King's Cujo or Pet Cemetery
c) watch a Hitchcock movie
d) all of the above
typical is not an easy read because it relies too much on abstraction, heavy metronomic repetitive imagery, and the emerging trend of text message lingo, the last of which frightens me to no end as English grammar has already taken so many lumps from the ever-increasing encroachment of digital progression.
In spite of these tribulations, there is some phenomenal poetry in typical. I found myself surprised by how often a moment of pure loveliness would emerge from the carousal ride that is typical. As I, the reader am tightly clinging for dear life to one of those ubiquitous horses that gallop through Kuhn's poetry, the whirling landscape would suddenly crystallize as in the poem "transparent":
we were talking
u just biting myself
yr hot soup nectarines bark
what a guy
am i rice
open u ice and ice
moon cries ruby red louise burning the vanilla
get with the snow u must
use the bones of and i shut in her,
want snow whatever open
apple bones i am lightly squeezing my
mother into dark cities:
It's those last two lines that grab me. All of a sudden the calliope music stops, the horse slows down, and I am allowed to linger, to drink in this fragrant, awful, majestic image. I GET it! I love it... and then the horse is off again at full speed, leaving me with the desire to pull in the reins, but I cannot, because the poetry will NOT let me. It's not supposed to.
And this is the key to the genius of Kuhn. Her words and devices bludgeon, and then cue the reluctant reader into the necessity to cross eyes into a non-linear perspective; to willingly, though grudgingly, travel through a dreamscape at breakneck speed to confront and contemplate the myriad of ideas that teem beneath the waking world.
The journey through typical reminds me of that scene from the movie Contact where the scientist Eleanor Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) is taken out of real time into a mind-bending journey to make contact an extraterrestrial intelligence. Though every moment of Arroway's flight is fraught with peril, there were pivotal junctures where she was able to catch a glimpse into and marvel at the diversity that is the heart of the multiverse.
typical girl also mirrors the challenge of trying to overcome the daily onslaught of information - both visual and written - that our society is confronted with on a daily basis through the media, advertising, and the Internet. One who reads this collection could use these poems as a meditation exercise to discipline the mind to go with the flow to better appreciate and savor those moments of clarity that come upon her/him before descending back into the techno rat race.
(typical girl, Donna Kuhn, Fine Tooth Press 2006, ISBN 0-9766652-7-1, 72 pages, $11.99)