The New Census: Chris Martin on Emily Kendal Frey

This week we continue our feature of The New Census: an Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, a lovely new book edited by Lauren Shapiro & Kevin A. Gonzalez, and published by Rescue Press. You can purchase the anthology here. Today, New Census contributor Chris Martin introduces Emily Kendal Frey’s work from the anthology.


Phrases about The New Census from an Online Chat (Continued):
…to make this center a “reason for liking” the less characteristic work…Emily Kendal Frey’s “Kaaba/Kiss the Stone,” Darcie Dennigan’s work, J. Michael Martinez’s essayistic tinkering, the horror and rage running under Sabrina Orah Mark’s prose…(to be continued)…



An Introduction to Emily Kendal Frey’s “KAABA/Kiss the Stone”


This is a poem about why humans make song. At least it is to me. I figure there are two purposes in life: love people and sing the universe back to itself. Emily’s poem is about both. The spell that is spelling. First you have a hollow aching palm and next you have a Martian lamp. Because you need to sing something, to have and to hold something, if nowhere else, in your mouth. This is what we do. Poets. We take nothing and figure out how to fuck it into something. Lyric poetry. Dry friction until the genie finally arrives. We show her our empty pocket and she turns it inside out. Then someone tells that joke about petting a rabbit between the ears. But it’s true. An empty pocket (palm) becomes an ear (lamp). Nothing gets truly fucked into a great big ear. And what does an ear do but beat out the world’s secret name on its fleshy drum? A no held in the ear grows and becomes nominal. A patina of life, miraculous, some frost shaking atop the neighbor’s dog shit. A golden letter. Epistolary. Dear God, we write, thanks for nothing. And suddenly we mean it. Just waiting in bed. A puddle of sun on someone’s exposed torso. What good is language? Dad gets stuck in your lung like a carrot. Pure magic. So when the sun says nothing our organs yawn and sway. We listen to its sacred totally banal nothing all morning. Just standing there and neither of us appearing to move. Pubic shining death banter. The weirdness of having come / out a hole. Our mouths our empty pockets. Because the song is like nuclear fallout, falling everywhere. All we have to do is pick it up. Light. All we need are horny Martians. And teeth. Right?


You can watch Emily Kendal Frey read “KAABA / Kiss the Stone” here.


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