A hallmark of brilliant poetry is the ability to invite the reader to step into a landscape through concise yet vivid imagery. These two “feral girls” poems, appearing in the debut issue of Bear Review in the fall of 2014, distill entire worlds. They read like a highly condensed collection of images, a journal, a travel log, a snapshot that invites you deeper and deeper in the longer you look at it.
Both poems begin in a prostrate place--“Lie down on the ground” and “I fell flat”--foreshadowing the ultimate question of mortality lying in wait at each poem’s end. We are then immediately in motion. Particularly, we are falling. Notice the emphasis in the repetition and first line break of “Danielle:” “Lie down on the ground. Lie / down on the ground like that.” A command. An instruction. And quickly, we are sucked into a scene full of tree limbs, brush, fire, paws, rivers, creeks, hills, berries, snow, and cold.
We’re in the chaos of nature. Where a fire for heat and berries for sustenance are means of survival. Where your own mortality is in constant question. A liminal space. A contemplation on the fragility of your very body.
Yet, Kaminski asks us to consider the warmth and light that might be found in such a harsh and dangerous place. Our speaker addresses us as one might address a pet. Lie down. I will make a fire. Let me rest in your furry arms. The conciseness brings us into the severity of the situation. Yet, this simplicity also calls our attention to the comfort and companionship that can be found even in the darkest of places.
Similarly, “Margot” opens with our speaker falling--this voice dangles over a frozen creek. These feral girls weep. And their echo becomes the ultimate expression of solitude. A cry no one can hear except for the reverberation of the speaker’s own voice coming back to them. In the face of chaos, our speaker screams into the abyss of mortality--only to hear their own subjective voice vibrating back. And yet, in this chaos--in this stripped-down solitude--there are “purple berries / fat on trees” and “prints in fresh powder.” Hope. Survival.
Kaminski asks us to consider both sides of the mortal coin. The fragility of the Self when it reckons with the Other. And yet, she asks us to feel how that reckoning is fundamental to everything it means to be human.
— Andrew Reeves
Megan Kaminski is the author of three books of poetry, Gentlewomen (Noemi Press, 2020), Deep City (Noemi Press, 2015) and Desiring Map (Coconut Books, 2012), and a forthcoming book of illustrated essays + oracle deck, Prairie Divination, in collaboration with artist L. Ann Wheeler. Her poems and essays have appeared in the American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Diagram, Seneca Review, and elsewhere. An Associate Professor at the University of Kansas, she teaches in the Graduate Creative Writing program and is Co-Director of the KU Global Grasslands CoLABorative. She is also the founder and curator of the Ad Astra Project.