Too much of the “avant-garde” poetry published today is at best inaccessible and at worst completely humorless. For many experimental poets (and, to be fair, also with many of my own formal poetry-writing cronies), the primary agenda becomes the poetics, not the poem. Not so for Kate Greenstreet. Here is a woman who does all the wonderful things the avant-garde aspires to—and also, amazingly, many of the things our favorite lyric poets hope to accomplish—with confidence, compassion and, thankfully, with great joy. Greenstreet’s poetry is not exactly lyric, not exactly narrative, and not exactly experimental. The style is “literary decoupage”: a mélange of seemingly disparate subjects appearing and disappearing in brief moments, bedfellowed in odd and lovely ways. And like decoupage, all of this piecework is lacquered with a high gloss: her very smart, understated poetic style serves as a buffer between the reader and the strangeness of her landscapes, adding shine and strength to the poems.
For example, in the four small pieces below, the desire to recognize and name the pronouns is overwhelming. Who is the "he"? Who is the "she", suddenly in Germany, where “there were unopened letters…”? How are they related to each other, and the speaker? It is the moments of insight—not into the poem’s people, mind you, but into life itself and its incongruity—that reconcile the reader to the mysteries of Greenstreet’s world. Because, that German woman with the letters?
After she died they kept coming.
I mean, really…at that point, do you care who she is? No. All you need to know is that she’s one of us. And we all die. And the letters will keep coming.
Hot damn, Kate Greenstreet.