Originally published in 1990, The Small Words in My Body (Kaleyard Books/Gutter Press, 88 pages, $12.95 paper), provides, to a wider readership reasonably presumed not to be acquainted with Karen Connelly's writing, an opportunity to "discover" her first book of poetry which, incidentally, underwent revision and "reinstates" the prose-poem "I Am One of the Privileged".
Exquisitely crafted, thoughtfully executed, and delightfully original (in both the poet's attention to form and content), Ms. Connelly's first book puts the last book of most so-called poets in this country to shame (regardless of their life or death status).
Of the three sequences included here, Four Suites, containing the greater part of the poet's work, most eloquently speaks to readers, penetrates their nervous systems, and rips their complacent composure to shreds: "I reach into that house/ and pull out the creak/ of the stairs...Why do I use the house, the dusty pocket,/ the past tense as if you were dead and I/ am suffering some warped sorrow?" she writes in the suite opener, "The Remarkable Cheapness of Blood" (in the entry "From My Father's Hand").
Later, in the title poem, she waves metaphoric crimson flags and takes the bull by the horns, so to speak, with devastating confidence: "Believer I am, but admit it:/ words will not cure everything... Every language is different and none exact. Close the books then./ They cannot cure this./ On the shelf they clench/ each other, spines rigid with silence.// This beaten leather bag,/ my body, these buckets of blood and bone./ They are my own./ There's no way to drain or erase / myself.
If poetry's express purpose resides in its ability to communicate (or collaborate) with its readers while simultaneously radiating spokes of the wheel of beauty (or horror), engendering cataclysmic recognition (or transport to elsewhere destinations), then Ms. Connelly's accomplished utterances embody those most powerful elements and signal the arrival of a world-class writer with the potential to turn poetry on its ear, given a ruthless editor willing to walk (or work) Ms. Connelly's line and excise excesses made manifest in such as "buckets of blood and bone".
As well, the producers of the current edition include one of the worst prefaces to poetry around, a piece of trendy-bendy clap-trap that does more harm than good particularly since, in her own words, Alexander Keim asserts that "it is my pleasure and honour to give you a little insight into what this book has meant to me" before going on and on, lamentably, and giving precious little of exactly that.