December 10, 2010 | 10:51 am
Posted by Jonathan Kirsch
Kim (Freilich) Dower is a svelte and stylish woman, but she looms large on the literary landscape of Los Angeles. Doing business as “Kim-from-L.A.,” she is among our most admired and beloved book publicists, a ubiquitous and cheery presence at every venue where authors and readers gather.
But Kim is also an accomplished writer in her own right, as we learn from her newly published poetry collection, “Air Kissing on Mars” (Red Hen Press: $18.95). Her work is exquisitely crafted but the tool marks are invisible on the printed page, and each poem reads like an intimate conversation with the poet herself — bright and lucid, funny and sharp, and always full of life.
The point was made at a recent reading that Kim gave at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. As always — and she will not be surprised to hear me say it — Kim was superbly attired and accessorized, but it was only in one of the poems in “Air Kissing on Mars” that I found a clue to the origins of her sense of style.
“My mother,” she writes in a poem titled “Different Mothers,” “did know about soil or earth worms.” And she goes on to observe:
“City mothers, we know about bus routes, restaurants/Broadway, the people on the eighth floor./Mine taught me to accessorize/bring the ideal hostess gift./have my keys in hand/when I enter the building.”
Many of the poems in the collection share the same kind of city smarts, and “Air Kissing on Mars” can be approached as a kind of poetic handbook for contemporary urban life in both New York and Los Angeles. A certain wry sense of humor is always at work — the title of “The Nudists Are Getting Ready to Pack” is a joke in itself — but the poems are infinite in their variety. Kim is sometimes subtly but undeniably erotic (“they made out on the carousel swan,/kissed til their lips bled”), sometimes openly confessional (“not even my therapist can know/the things I do in my car”), and sometimes unapologetically sentimental as in a superbly bittersweet poem titled “If My Father Were Alive.”
“If my father were alive/heaven would be calm,/the woman in the apartment next door/would still be dressing up, her fuchsia prints/shrieking into the night.”
My single favorite poem in the collection — and something of an outlier in terms of form and style — is “She Showed Me Pictures of Injuries,” a tour de force that pulses with a strange sexuality as the poet describes an unlikely encounter between a guy in a Wisconsin hotel lobby and two roller-derby skaters dubbed Hot Pink Suede and Jazz Night Queen. To be sure, skating injuries have something to do with what’s going on here, but that’s not all.
“he closes his eyes sees her flying/she tugs at Jazz Night dizzy their short skirts/singing to him he’s cold in Wisconsin he watches them kiss/he met a girl who skates across his face”
The best way to enjoy the poems in “Air Kissing on Mars,” I think, is to gather with friends, open a bottle of wine, pass the book around, and take turns reading them aloud. Something not unlike that took place at Barnes & Noble — a few of the appreciative folks in the audience were definitely aglow! — and Kim Dower’s poems flew off the page and soared around the room.
“Poetry makes nothing happen” warned Auden, but after closing my copy of “Air Kissing on Mars,” I think he was wrong.
Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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