Tucson poet Kristi Maxwell dazzles readers with her latest poetry collection Re-, released in September from Ahsahta Press. Reading Re- is like encountering a beautiful origami figure, unfolding it, and then re-folding it again, to find that you have created something entirely different from what you started with. There are layers upon layers of meaning here, and every re-reading unveils something new. Each poem is a riddle; the answers may sometimes elude us, but we continue to read, hoping that we may stumble upon answers.
The book is organized into four sections, labeled in the contents as “cycles,” each “cycle” with a different name, though the poems themselves are untitled. The premise of Re- involves an unnamed “he” and “she” exploring a relationship which is often strife-filled: “…meaning leans toward her/but barely.” Even so, “She glowed like a globe lit from the inside” and through the course of the book, the couple discovers that their bond is worth whatever hardships they experience.
To fully understand this collection, we must first consider its title, “Re-“as in to do again, to re-imagine, re-evaluate, re-enter, a prefix that attaches itself to another word, to create a new meaning, just as the “he” and “she” in the book are defined anew when participating in the relationship.
The language in Re- is often perplexing, though it invites the reader to create his or her own interpretations and connections. We are often left questioning what Maxwell meant by a certain turn of phrase, making comparisons and juxtapositions between unlikely subjects, as in this line: “Their similar homes behind/ the spit omen.” We are left wondering, what is a “spit omen” exactly? Or “His teeth punch in the tender calculator/of a grin.” How is a grin like a calculator? Indeed, language, our perceptions of it, and how it helps (or hinders) us when experiencing the world take center stage in the text. The book is rife with references to language and our dependence upon it, as in “Landmark in water. Watermark/on paper. Saliva on the verb” and “Though they’ve been known to tighten mauve corsets/too tightly against the bosom of their speech.” Even the last line of the text claims “What their hands can’t manage their mouths try” which is a perfect summation of the book as a whole.
***This review can be also be found in Bone Bouquet.