Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2020
If you are curious about a new way to put words together to create art, Amy King’s book of poems “The Missing Museum” will blow your headphones off. Amy King doesn’t just create poems, each of her pieces are like stage sets, loaded with fast-paced sound clips dense with references, meaning and energy. Each poem has lines that are worthy of quotation simply because you know you’ve never heard it said this way before. And if her term “fuckworthy art” makes you flinch, you may not understand the importance of creating something without self-limitations. You may not even realize you have self-limitations until you read this book. It felt to me like taking a wild ride on the back of a huge Harley, holding on to King as navigator with both heads of hair tangled in the lashing wind.
I first encountered King’s poetry via poets.org daily feed with “You Make The Culture.” A relatively mild-mannered nod to phenomenology, handing responsibility to the reader for meaning. When I subsequently attended her reading at DIA Chelsea in NYC, I was struck by her poem “Drive By” where she suggests, “Word is a gift from a cow that speaks. Moo is animal conveyance. The translation is human.” She goes on to ask “Can you sing the color of me in the sounds around you?” I told her afterwards, I liked ‘Moo By You’ a lot.
But both of these, however, are just teasers for the womanness of the slam you get from the poems in this book. The survival strategy of silence is discussed in many of the works listed in Wikipedia’s resource of feminist literature. In contrast, the volume of King’s voice, at once raw and erudite is a courageous clarion. I can hear myself in her poems, my eyes, my body, my self, forming her words out loud. As she describes herself in one, “…A comedian knocking at your brain’s jealous song. I want to hold you with the infection of voice, I want to charm you with mirrors that fall, from the candor my eyes speak in no words at all.”
I have chosen one of her poems for my weekly radio show on KRFY 88.5 in Sandpoint Idaho called “Songs-Voices-Poems.” The theme is “Holding The Center,” a particular gift I believe women’s perspectives bring to a thirsty world. King’s poem “The Crone In The Hiccup Of Light” opens with, “How she…ties ends in loose knots and evaporates the scene is a magic I wish for children in hard rain,” and continues until the reveal, “With a hiccup of light in a pasture her recipes gather, words stay with us on loan, invisible as the oasis one hopes for beyond death’s lapel.”
I will send a copy of “The Missing Museum” to my best women friends, with a note that says, “Let’s just speak in Amy King from now on.”
Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.