Karen Volkman | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Karen Volkman 

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Does Karen Volkman frown as she reads, "But my zero, sum and province, whole howl, skies the all"? Is there a trace of smile when she recites, "Hey bleach-blink, sheen-gaze, pearl-pith--root of worlds. Splinter in the void's eye, orphan." At times frustratingly enigmatic, Volkman's poems talk to one another in their own language, following their own rules, and communicate to the reader almost by accident, leaning into whatever meaning they have. The mostly brief prose poems that make up her 2002 collection Spar (University of Iowa Press) build upon one another to create something very like a classical sonnet sequence, addressed not to Laura or Stella but to the coy bleach-blink. But more than an examination of love, the book seems also a search for the form to express that love. "Someone was searching for a Form of Fire," she begins in the opening verse, and concludes, rather regally, at the end of the book, "How much like a star we were, light as blazons." Volkman's hardly the only poet today working hard at wordplay, but Spar takes very seriously the possibility of finding sense in seeming nonsense, of order taking shape in her jumbled syntax. She'll read as part of the fall poetry series at Columbia College, Concert Hall, 1014 S. Michigan, 312-334-8138. Thursday, November 20, 5:30 PM.

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