Book Review

Maiden by Karina Bush

poetry review PLUS why I am now a poet

I read and enjoyed Karina Bush’s 50 Euro, back when I was hoping against hope that lust would never blight me again, that I would never end up like the sad, lonely, horny men that are met in repetitious succession in that poetry collection, which is told from the perspective of a woman working as a prostitute in the red light district of heady Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam last year, a trip I had largely forgotten, falling as it did during my downward spiral towards dark depression. I visited the Van Gogh Museum and I went for a meal out with an old friend and his girlfriend (Christ, people I met when I was a student are “old friends” now… People I met when I was a student I have known for a DECADE now), I didn’t enter the red light district once and I didn’t smoke any weed. “Was I even there?” you might ask. But yes, yes I was. I was there with my father and his health wasn’t great and-

Actually, I don’t wanna talk about that trip. Or my depressed past, tbh. I’m not saying not ever again, but not at the moment, not in this post, not today.

I’m trying to get my life in order atm and I’m actually feeling very positive about a lot of things. I don’t think it’s in my best interest to focus on bad times in the past, or on bad situations in the present I can’t do anything to change. Something I’m particularly excited about, lol, is my recent decision to start self-identifying as a poet. It turns out that to “be” a poet, all you need to do is a) tell people you’re a poet, b) get some people to publish some “poems” you’ve “written” and c) copy and paste some of your tweets into a word document titled “poems”. Well, that’s what I’ve done, and not one person has yet told me “you’re not a poet”. You don’t have to be good at poetry to be a poet, as I’d already noticed years ago. This why I feel no discomfort in nabbing this identifier.

Since I started self-identifying as a poet a couple of months ago, I haven’t read many poems at all. In fact, for me, I think it would be absolutely fair to say that it was only when I gave up reading poems that I felt comfortable writing poems.

ANYWAY, as I’m a “hip new contemporary voice” (according to my secondary twitter account), I thought I should probably read some contemporary poetry that isn’t written by me. Yes, that’s very generous with my time, I know: time spent reading a poem is time that could be spent writing as many as three or four original poems, well, at least it is at the speed I write poems. At the moment I think there are more people who’d like their poems read by me in comparison to people waiting, aching, for more Scott Manley Hadley Poetry, so let’s do reading instead. Whatever, tho, I am a poet now, like, so here’s some informed, knowing, analysis of a 2016 collection of poetry by the Irish writer Karina Bush, published by 48th Street Press.

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I believe that Bush is younger than me, but she is definitely years ahead in her poetic journey (a journey that I, as a poet, believe we are ALL on, because I believe that most of us – especially those who eschew 9 to 5 office jobs and describe ourselves in our Twitter bios as poets – are poets). Maiden was Bush’s debut collection, but it showcases themes that her second collection (50 Euro) would continue to explore, only here without the consistency of setting. There is a lot of violence in these poems, and also a lot of sex, and it is – like in 50 Euro – when the sex is forefront that the collection sings. Often as explicit as the last book I read, The Tryst, and regularly as playful, Bush’s writing here feels a little more forced, a little less natural. It is the repeated and often quite bloody violence that feels out of place: it feels less felt, if that makes sense, than does her writing that deals more explicitly and/or simply with sex itself.

The second poem in the collection, ‘Wide Open’, for example, is a short piece with the opening lines “I pull the knife out / Run it over my clit” and continues with further sexualised violence, ending with the title as the final words. As unnerving as it is, this image of violence is written with a simplicity and a detail that holds little back: the poem doesn’t “go” anywhere, but that is its almost haiku-like purpose: it is a single image, this stroke of a knife opening a body. Several of the poems in the collection are similar to this, a moment caught, an emotion, a relationship, described very briefly and, often, very aggressively, but often with a striking effect.

‘Bitch is Thirsty’ is a great fun piece about dominating cunnilingus, ‘This Morning’ is an intriguing and more imagistic poem about walking home the morning after sex, while ‘Unchristian’ has a great set of deliciously charged lust within its lines:

Lash me about
Until our come
Is fucking everywhere
I hope it sticks our bodies together

Ooof. Tasty.

And, further on, we get ‘The Pit’, which is again an expression of strong desire:

Back in the pit
A man’s belt around my neck
Me and nothing
And him
It’s all I want
And semen
To fill every crack
In my being

That gentle imagery at the end, that huge and overwhelming expression of lust, of brokenness, of physicality, of hunger. It is the poems like this, the poems of horn and fulfilment, tinged with a momentary (but desired) violence, that spoke to me the most here. I didn’t enjoy the murderous, male, violence, or the peadophilic, mutual, desire in poems such as ‘Daddy’, though I have to acknowledge the powerful unpleasantness of this poem’s final stanza:

Greedy little hands
And
Greedy big hands
Pushing
Wrestling
For release

There are repeated references to lost innocence, to lost virginity, throughout, appropriate to the title of the collection and the fact that this is a debut. Bush moves vastly away from this virginal tone (which is not present everywhere here) for 50 Euro, and I can’t decide if she is more successful at writing poems that describe sexual openness, or if my own personal prejudices make me feel more comfortable reading poems about sexual contact where female desire is either real (in this collection) or voluntarily (in 50 Euro) faked.

I enjoyed this, and I enjoyed Bush’s recent Christmas story posted on her website and she was also one of my interviewees for an interview series about poo I will be publishing soon over at Queen Mob’s Teahouse recently. [LINK LINK LINK WHEN POSTED].

I like the viscerality and physicality of Bush’s writing’s, I like the themes of desire that she explores, and though perhaps these explorations turn a little darker than my personal tastes feel comfortable with (which is why I have still never read 2666, even tho I’ve both wanted to and not wanted to for years). This is, like 50 Euro, a fun collection of poetry. There’s worse stuff out there (including my poems lolololol), so go have a look at Bush’s website and enjoy a bit of filthy poetry.

NB: I was given a free copy of this, if it’s any of your fucking business. Also not gonna put any of my own low-qual poetry in because it looks even worse when right next to other people’s.

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2 comments on “Maiden by Karina Bush

  1. Pingback: The Commons by Stephen Collis – Triumph of the Now

  2. Pingback: Bad Boy Poet by Scott Manley Hadley – Triumph Of The Now

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