I like books that come with add-ons. Sometimes review books do. They’ll come with a press release statement, or sometimes they’ll be signed. My copy of Kissy Killy included
- The author’s signature
- Three postcards of strange sketches
- An A4 page of lipstick kisses
- A letter
- Some unpublished poetry that the author is currently working on
Good show. The add-ons occupied me for hours. I would like to suggest to any authors out there reading this that they include stickers when they send their books out.
Then I turned away from the swag and focused on the content of the collection.
Vox Anon described this collection himself as a “diary-type collection of poems composed in experimental, voyeuristic, & confessional modes.” We are told that the main themes are, “kissing games, metaphysical love, & gross anatomy.”
As a reader, I am always gratified when an author describes what a collection of poetry is supposed to be about, or what themes/issues it is tied together by. It gives the reader a framework to hold in their mind as they go in to read. Some people would disagree, arguing that a work should be explored without prior knowledge/influences, and obviously this is their choice. Perhaps only Structuralists would agree with me.
I was halfway through the collection before I read the letter and the description of themes, and this summing up elevated the poetry to a status that I had demoted it from on first reading.
On first reading, you see, Kissy Killy smacks of adolescent angst and general emo-ness. I pitied the man in his 40s who would be driven to write such juvenilia. It brought to mind the books of Judy Blume, whose explorations of the body and beginning awareness of sexuality so edified me as a teenager.
Then came the letter. A little flash of understanding came into my head, an aha moment where what the author was trying to achieve came together. Perhaps it just goes to show how little I understand art that I would need the over-arcing messages to be spelled out, but perhaps I would represent the majority of people who aren’t artists.
In speaking about the reactions of a reader to certain subjects, I wonder if the response says more about the reader than the subject. My immediate rejection of a work that deals with physical love probably reveals more about me than about how ‘bad’ or ‘good’ a work of art might be, if such value judgements can still be applied.
With that in mind, once the initial knee-jerk reaction is dealt with, Vox Anon does address some issues that are lacking in an awful lot of literature. By this I refer to the reality of the body, or the feelings that people don’t admit to themselves that they have, the twisted, ugly desires and needs that many people and works of literature like to pretend don’t exist. I exclude Nabokov’s works in general from this, of course, Jean Genet in entirety, and, finally, Ulysses.
Perhaps such works deal so extensively with masturbation and disturbing sexual fantasy that other texts feel they don’t need to cover the same ground.
Kissy Killy moves from genital mutilation to the expelling of the ovum during menstruation, to the feel and taste of the inside of a woman’s most secret places. These are only three examples.
We live in an age of distance from the body, of immersion in virtual reality, of transformation and scientific advances as regards cosmetic and bionic bodily ‘upgrades’. Kissy Killy brings the reader back to the simple actuality of the corporeal fundamentals that they’ve forgotten—the body they already possess. Like Erlend Loe’s magnificent Naïve. Super, Kissy Killy should be required reading for the new generation—of which I am a member—who exist on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as well as through blogging and text messaging. We need to be reminded of who we are in the first place.
Finally, the style and techniques of the writing itself.
The poetry is abstract in the extreme. There are little quirks that I found endearing. God is never mentioned aloud, for instance, and is always represented as G-d. As a taste of everything I’ve been discussing here, and everything that Kissy Killy is offering to the reader, I leave you with an extract from ‘Every Time I’:
the way you stare i could never
be your camera or ocean mirror
captive in your bird
cage my dear when
darkness feels like home
the eye of the calm appears
a storm palace swarming
alarming whirlpooling wisps
shipwrecks set sail i try
tangled in your tentacles sheer
childhood tears will never tear
the seventh veil i am