Cat People by Kyle Hemmings (poems, 15 pages, Gold Wake Press)
Cat People is a messy bit of surrealistic fun. The chapbook is either: a collection of prose poems with an overriding cat conceit; the brief fictional biography of a woman named Kat told in a lyrical style; or a mix of all or some of the preceeding. Throughout, Hemmings keeps the reader bumping around in a pinball game of flashy images, metaphors and language.
Image-wise, it’s a real zoological potpourri, although the cat (and metonymic use of the cat body) is, quite rightly, front-and-centre. Here, the feline can represent everything from superstition and mystery to sexuality and slyness to a seething ferocity. Verse-wise, Hemmings can be playful and musical, as in “Star Mother”:
“Running your hands over walnut wood, its veneer and lacquer, you traced the curves of scallop shells, scrolls in Braille, Ping dynasty servant girls serving tea.”
Or, in “Blue Hearts”, ostensibly a lover’s quarrel between “Kat” and “Pixie-Bob”, he does dry very well, observing how “[t]he rain is not logical, and contrary to popular belief, has no musical sense.”
The narrative thread taken up in the second half of the chapbook, though, is not tightly tied down. What seems at first to be a collection of disparate poems abruptly develops more solid characters and scenes – but doesn’t quite hold together in the process.
No matter. With its energy and music, the chapbook may best be read as a work meant to encourage the reader to luxuriate in language, like a cat bathing in the sun.
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