A review of Maiden by Karina Bush

Reviewed by Elvis Alves

by Karina Bush
48th Street Press
2016, paper

You might not want to read Karina Bush’s Maiden unless you like lewd literature. She presents poetry in a frank way. This moves away from the subtleness that some have come to expect and appreciate in the art of poetry. This is not a case for the censoring of Karina’s work or works like hers. In some ways, her writing reminds us that the world is not monolithic when it comes to the subject of sex. If you search long enough, you will find that the poems revolve around other matters like the human need to connect with the self and other human beings, and notions like survival in a world that is spiraling out of control in a perverted manner.

Nevertheless, I am afraid that Karina trivializes sexual misconduct to the degree that it is repulsive. There is the possibility that she does this on purpose, that she is writing for a specific audience who “gets” what she says.

I want to stop his ability to think
Turn him into a primitive
Powered only by instinct
Give him back my obsession
Turn him into my rapist (Red Blood, 1)

Is Karina glorifying rape and rape culture here? A look at her website, and other things she has written, argue that she is exercising the freedom of her imagination as a creative type. However, in creating, the artist needs to keep in mind the effects of her work, both good and bad, on others and the world. With creativity comes responsibility.

Karina hints at a goal of her work, that of the support of iconoclasm, in the poem Unchristian. She writes, “You want it dirty/My prince/You’ll get it/Uncleanable/Unchristian” (14). However, her argument is faulty due to the notion that Christianity, or any other religion for that matter, is clean. One can make the same conclusion regarding the rest of her work as presented in the collection. Something is off-putting. It is too dirty. But light shines in darkness, and not to be totally negative about it, I would like to highlight some themes that give the collection some strength.

For one, Karina sees sex as a powerful weapon and most of us can agree with this. There is a staunch resiliency in the characters as depicted in some of the poems, “I submit to myself/There is nothing else” (Just Me, 12). Similarly, desire is normalized and not ashamed of. In Beast, a lover classified as a brute is painted as “breaking things to get to me” (28). But this small book is without a big punch. And it is for adults only.

About the reviewer: Elvis Alves is the author of the poetry collection Bitter Melon (Mahaicony Books, 2013). Find out more at www.poemsbyelvis.blogspot.com