If Lorca and Neruda spoke through a feminine medium, they might do so through Kate Kingston. Her poems, like theirs, forge thrilling combinations from the colors, textures, and the objects of this world. They speak from the landscapes and voices of Spain and Old Mexico, which clearly have fed her imagination, but they offer, as well, glimpses of a contemporary American woman’s rites of passage now in full possession of her powers of empathy, devotion and perception.
—Leslie Ullman, author of Slow Work through Sand
Kate Kingston’s Shaking the Kaleidoscope invites us in to legendary, multi-hued gardens flooded with Andalusian sun and suffused with the gleam of labyrinthine moons. In these poems, we trace intricate pathways of the imagination traversed by GarcÃa Lorca and Neruda; but the poet, trusted guide, continually bids us to raise our eyes as well to the rugged contours of mesa, butte, and escarpment—the expansive New World landscapes that extend the numinous power of garden and patio, the incantatory prospects of memory and dream.Â In these imagistically rich and variegated poems, we dwell in the company of a traveler whose discoveries encompass dimensions both personal and mythic, and whose illuminations dazzle our sensibilities and deepen our intimations of wonder.
—Carolyne Wright, Blue Lynx Prize, American Book Award
This is a poet who can write about the domestic and the cosmic, the micro and macro views of the world. But more than any such analysis indicates, they are good reading, linguistically subtle and interesting, capturing a variety of moods and subjects. This is a voice we will certainly want to hear more of.
—Richard Jackson, author of Resonance
Kate Kingston gives us a world of rare complexity where language and place are a strong part of the poet’s experience. In this “Kaleidoscope” she revisits Lorca’s poems, family memories, Mexican ruins, and even an airplane journey where Kingston asks us to think of “oxygen masks as halos.” Shaking the Kaleidoscope is a dazzling collection of poems.
—Jennifer Clement, President of PEN Mexico
About the Author
Kate Kingston is the author of Shaking the Kaleidoscope, a finalist in the 2011 Idaho Prize for Poetry, and published by Lost Horse Press in 2012. Previous poetry collections include: In My Dreams Neruda, El Río de Las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio, and Unwritten Letters. Kingston is a recipient of the W.D. Snodgrass Award for Poetic Endeavor and Excellence, the Ruth Stone Prize, the Atlanta Review International Publication Prize, and the Colorado Council on the Arts Literary Fellowship in Poetry. She has also been selected as a finalist in Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Arts and Letters Rumi Prize for Poetry. Kingston has been awarded fellowships from Fundación Valparaíso, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, the Harwood Museum, Jentel, Ucross, Colorado Art Ranch, and the Anderson Center. She has served as Language Department Chairperson at the College of Eastern Utah and Professor of Spanish and Writing at Trinidad State College. She currently lives and writes in Trinidad, Colorado.
Please follow the links to read reviews of Kate Kingston's Shaking the Kaleidoscope:
Sugar House Reviews10 July 2013
reviewed by Nancy Takacs
Kate Kingston weaves culture, language, and myth from Spain and Mexico, throughout her first book, Shaking the Kaleidoscope, in surprising ways, engaging the reader with images from her travels there, as well as from her childhood in Wisconsin and her adult life in the American west. Balancing her desire for humanity and beauty against a world of loss and violence, she observes with a level eye, and reconciles this looking at the world dead on, sometimes with humor, but always with verve.
The book begins with poems about Lorca. Kingston travels widely in Spain, was a Spanish professor, and is currently a poetry translator. Interspersed through her Lorca poems are sections of the title poem, which include memories of an accident when she fell as a child as well as one in which her son almost died. The voice throughout the five parts of this poem cannot suppress her memories of violence:
I cannot recall violence […]
I cannot recall pistachios,
the way the shell cracks between my teeth,
or myself dropping
from a metal
bar chipping my front
tooth on happiness,
the stain of blood in the sand,
nothing like the matador
gored in the groin,
so that my lament rises
up next to Lorca
and smells of wet ashes.
The sections of the poem build with the thread of violent events we might witness in our everyday lives, such as a refusal to someone begging, and the near-death of a loved one in the powerful,“Shaking the Kaleidoscope III,” a piece about her young son’s near-asphyxiation, and the distance and paralysis felt when one force clashes violently against another:
I cannot recall violence,
but one morning my son’s face
turned blue. I forced
my own breath into his lungs,
cannot recall the sound of waves
claiming shore or the way
his feet toed-in, only the cadence,br> of silence, nothing like
the chain of mountain peaks
suffering from lack of rain.
I cannot recall the way a knife
slices coconut into quarter moon
wedges, cannot recall cleats
biting into cobblestone, nor the bull
lifting his horns to the groin,
the matador spilling onto sand,
nothing like the pomegranate
or the blue face of a child
when his lungs will not pull air,
nothing like exhaust filling
my nostrils or pesetas
dropping into an open palm.
The pulse of the five-section poem is violence, and it is unforgettable. This underscores her compassion for Lorca, his poetry, his perseverance in facing, and not fleeing from, possible assassination.
“What Does Lorca Own?,” placed in his summer home Huerta de San Vicente in Grenada, Spain, also shows Kingston’s connection with him as a writer, in the following lines:
Lorca owns a room full of assonance placating
his pen with ohs and ahs. He begins to float,
and the room becomes a river, current and undertow . . .
. . . Twenty-six boots cross
the plaza, worn-down heels bring him men
filled with bullets and lime. When he closes his eyes:
he sees the stray dog approach his knee, the stray
dog sniff his crotch, the stray dog lick his face . . .
Lorca owns the word Green.
The poet discovers meaning for herself in both Spanish and English, in her interaction with the tangible, learning what is symbolic in one culture could have a different meaning in another, although in her own poetic language, she intersects them both, creates anew. For example, the word “green” connotes death in the Spanish language, as opposed to new life in English. In several of her poems, she uses this word, allowing both meanings to surface, not choosing one over the other, because both languages are on her tongue and in her consciousness. Both meanings add to the context. She also searches in her comparisons for evidence of one world inside the other, cultures skipping boundaries.
As an example, although many of her images in the book point to a less anxious and more gentle Mexico, while visiting Mayan ruins she learns how women were killed or sacrificed, brutality against women evident in this culture, with “bruised skulls / found in the cenote,” how the “the women were struck, pushed, / over an edge into the sweet water / this underground river, and she leaves “clutching the cabled rail ready to steady [her] descent.” Kingston returns to snorkel this underground river in “Mayan Riviera Wedding” after her daughter’s wedding there, alone, to a cave where she pulls out a vigil candle that she lights as she feels fish surface, and watches bats fly around her: “murceilagos, struggle[ing] / with light, not unlike my daughter—her complicated veil, / its lace teeth catching on doorknobs, on coat hangers.” This re-visitation of the place where the women were killed suggests her need to mourn them, as well as to celebrate their lives, to both mourn and celebrate her daughter’s marriage. She begins “a new altar, / a piece of stalagmite.”
Kingston directs our attention to an American misunderstanding of art, another kind of violence. In the poem “Concourse A Exhibit,” an airport art exhibiting Denver was screened and critiqued as “inappropriate” because some of the artists’ works had images of skeletons; however, the poem suggests looking at art for art’s sake is what is important. Travelers are aware of what could happen on a plane and don’t have to be protected from a painting’s “eye socket of the skeleton staring back / as [they] clutch [their] boarding pass and identification in one hand, / [their]carry-on in the other”; or from the image of “bones / when the country is in code orange . . ."
Kingston writes of the world’s inconsistencies and tragedies, but also writes as strongly about joy. In “History of My Body” she celebrates:
This body remembers trick-or-treat, its Snickers bars
and bruised apples. This body remembers the way dried leaves
scratch the skin when I somersault into the pile
of tattooed veins—oak, elm, maple—then wrap myself
in a sarong of silver water. Inside this body, flies buzz,
this body with cake on its tongue.
In the final poem of Shaking the Kaleidoscope, “When Anna Meets for Lunch,” she intimates to a friend: “We are pearls born in the clam’s lust for sand. We are / coal before the diamond. What can pressure make of us now / taking us by the hand into the kaleidoscope of dark?”
Kingston’s poems embody duende, a term invented by Lorca who believed all good art must have it, saying: “The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, ‘The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs inside you, from the inside of the feet.’” Christopher Maurer, editor of In Duende, says, “The duende seizes not only the performer but also the audience , creating conditions where art can be understood spontaneously with little, if any, conscious effort.” This is what Kate Kingston’s poetry does. With a forthright and fresh voice, dazzling imagery, and a conscience, it calls us home.
Shaking the Kaleidoscope II
I cannot recall the sound
of the trolley, its chime
diminished by cathedral bells
nor the prints my knees
left in sand when my mother
lifted me to the car,
cannot recall the taste of honey
nor the voice of the vendor
selling split melons,
nothing like the pigeon,
guttural warble echoing inside
the jojoba, iridescent neck
collecting sunlight, not unlike
this street woman asking
me for pesetas, her shoes
as silent as the voice
that refuses. Not violence
to refuse a woman a handful
of coins for her story
spelled out in the sad leather
of her everyday shoes.
It was the way his memory entered the room
like a bell calling villagers to church
through a field of broken pencils,
Sorrow from the onslaught of pigeons.
I forgive the man in the black suit coat,
blossom of white in his buttonhole,
a ruin in his voice like melted candles,
waft of hand curling into green light.
A photograph blowing across the plaza
in a country full of olives.