A review of 81 Migrations by W.K. Buckley

Reviewed by Katherine McCord

81 Migrations
by W.K. Buckley
Fithian Press
ISBN-13: 978-1564742414, Paperback: 80 pages, April 1998

When I was reading 81 Migrations, I was fighting sleep. Since I couldn’t let go of it, I fought sleep even more until I couldn’t stand it. Here are my notes: Rich and sweeping, Coined words are coins, Everything has a glint to it—even sound is lush—I want to crawl in the poems, A review of them (the poems, the book) could only be a poem itself. The writer loves language, more as a poet than one who tries to write a poem and obviously doesn’t succeed even though some, shes and hes, think they do. Here’s an example from “Mule Song”:

. . . & o how
sundown-takes-its-red from Phoenix in an ashcan! A stuffed down glow so pandemic in the Midtown blowout that we ride in the flux & fluid of a full-hipped sidewalk to Tribeca for one long tall look down a penny paper want ad & beer thrown back for luck.

And another for “Gestapo Sandwich”:

his words were the police before he jumped from the bridge.
And his brain read like a sitcom canceled from boredom.
If you remove it & slice you will find in its folds
A hero who bites bread with a Nazi
& shoves his soul into a boxcar to Mars.

The second stanza will stun you too but I don’t want to quote it because the poem deserves so much more.

As if there are footnotes when there are not, “bumming [editor: the number 2 after the g appearing small and low on the word to direct you to the bottom of the page for more explanation]” has no second footnote. In fact, there’s not a first. It’s empty, the bottom of the page, but appropriately so because the explanation is rest, a hypnotic flying air: “in living thick-late as humid-sax in old Dixie wet with magnolia / tasted in mouth/”.

So often the poems speak to those of us distraught with the world, distraught with its violence and oppression. The indentations emphasize this, the lousy truth, the alternate spellings and syntax and emphasized linebreaks with their slashes follow suit, the “&”,’s say there’s not enough time:

You know the Bronx & the vibrating barrios/
                        The way Disney’s Land is built upon a
swamp of blood/
The way Wall street rattles our cages/

I beautifully suggest, in keeping with the book, you read 81 Migrations, not because it’s an alternate reality, but a poet living and writing from within, down from up, up from down. Plus, you’ll dream.

About the reviewer: Katherine McCord’s two books of poetry are Island and Living Room (prose poems).  Her third book, My CIA, is a lyric essay/memoir.  My CIA was named a top ten “Great” book of 2012 by the Review of Art, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities and added to their ongoing list of Great Nonfiction, now including 12, reads.  It won a Baker Artist Award; was showcased on Maryland Public Television’s, An Artworks Special; and was featured through an art installation co-produced by Maryland Institute College of Art’s MFA in Curatorial Practice in early December 2013 in Baltimore.  She has published widely in literary journals and magazines such as American Poetry Review, and has an MFA in Poetry and an MA in English/Creative Writing/Poetry.