And Krampus is Trying to Find Himself a Corner in It
The review was originally published June 13th 2018 on Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to editing changes.
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Philadelphia poet Anne-Adele Wight’s 2016 collection The Age of Greenhouses is very much like its cover: eye-catching and weird. Its subject matter, which is human kind’s raging destruction of the environment, is clearly dear to Wight’s heart; however, as Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine sings, “…the heart is hard to translate. It has a language of its own.” Wight’s powerful conviction is not diluted in her pages, but at times the ultimate goal of her mission, to protect the planet, becomes hard to understand. Poetry is an excellent mode for an individual wishing to convey the intense passions they are feeling within the core of their being, but the initial explosion of word upon paper can lead to confusion. The manner in which Wight constructs her poetry is as if they are written in code. This makes many of them difficult for readers to decipher.
Celebrated Rupi Kaur‘s poetry is constructed in such a minimal way that her work could aptly be described as skeletal, but as a result the meaning of her poems ring as clear as a bell. On the other hand, Wight is seemingly trying to provoke her readers into action to save the environment, and yet, her free-flowing poetic forms instead provoke them into attempting to discern the message of the poetry. Unfortunately, these readers are operating without an answer key to guide them throughout the text. Everyday fans of verse will find themselves struggling with much of this content, but if they dive in with a receptive mind they will discover something that is particularly impressive: Wight’s ability to create an entire universe through poetic form.
Wight’s poetic voice is unique; it cannot be mistaken for any other writer and builds gardens and characters which are all Wight’s own. One way she accomplishes this, much like poet Lauren Scharhag, is through her application of mythology into her writing. Wight makes use of such mythical monsters as the Minotaur and, in addition, Krampus. It is Krampus though who is actually a starring character in the collection.
Wight essentially reinvents him for the modern day. She casts this central player as an age-old forest demon thrust out into today’s world of deforestation and climate change. What is he to do when the oceans overtake his dense woodlands? Where is he to go when the stalwart trees have all been felled? This displacement of a fearsome demon strengthens her point that if even the monsters of our nightmares are losing their habitats perhaps human beings, corporal creatures after all, should begin to grow just a tad bit more concerned with the welfare of the planet.
Wight also creates a curious situation in “Tree with Mask.” When the speaker declares in the piece that “…books don’t come free in the garden / even if certified blood free…” is she pointing the finger at everyone involved with the publishing industry, the writers, the printers, the readers, for their own part of destruction against nature? Wight appears to be offering a challenge to her readers to accept or at least recognize their own part in the break down of the wider ecosystem. As mentioned before, Wight’s passions are not dulled through language, and her warnings “…lodge like meteorites in human lungs.”
It is vitally important though that writers everywhere bear in mind that some type of context clues must be provided for readers in order to avoid confusion. What is the point of art if it cannot be understood, after all? Poetry readers who want a challenge will most likely profit from reading this book. It is complex and can, at times, be maddening, yet the poems “Feedback Loop” and “Garden under a Plank Porch” will provide relief as brave readers make their own attempts to decipher Wight’s deeper meanings.
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