Reviewed by Beatriz Copello
Beyond the Hill I Gather
by Jeffrey Kingman
Finishing Line Press
$19.99, paper, ISBN: 978-1-64662-497-3, 734pp, May 2021
Beyond That Hill I Gather by Jeffrey Kingman is a fascinating poetry book which focused on the lives of mainly well-known women. Kingman, from the United States of America is an award-winning poet with many titles to his name. This collection has won the 2018 Eyelands Book Award (Greece) and was a finalist in the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk Prize for poetry.
Kingsman’s poems are nostalgic without being sentimental, they are dense in meaning because they can be read from many different perspectives and evoke different meanings. Nearly all the poems are based on other publications, but the author does not appropriate from other writers, in the back pages of the book he meticulously writes from where he based his poetry.
The poet creates stories, interprets what he has read, he transforms this in a poetic narrative which is like a kaleidoscope, where strong images blend together to form a profound whole.
Beyond That Hill I Gather is like a Rorschach Test where readers can interpret the poetry from their own psyche point of view. Is his poetry sometimes enigmatic? Yes, it is, and also it is rich in musicality, imagination and imagery. Kingsman also creates characters or interpret and represents real ones, like in the following poem titled “The Way Back Home: Muriel Spark”. The author says: “… is a fictional poem that uses Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark as a starting point”
why and where a tinsel coronet
chosen queen of poetry
so nice to have one’s hair stroked by a teacher
she submerges her telephone his words moisten
faraway languages spill from her unheld hand
alone she wanders south Africa
what a long walk and with a baby robin to feed
the earth chafes and the baby’s beak so sharp
a young woman out lost must test each thorn
she looks down through the parasol trees
wet swooshing incessant spray
leopards are harmless it’s the yellow oxalis
chases her home
now it’s just front porch azaleas
the sun must have set and the school closed
even the walls evaporating
only voices left
she must form the words dryly
yes her hair was nice
the old teacher said
Kingsman is very much aware of women’s issues, he takes the persona of women and writes about them with sensitivity. He pays particular attention to the interiority of the observable world, not merely its surface impressions. In the following poem titled “Help Me Out Can You: Elizabeth Holloway Marston” well describes the many tasks that women carry out – the observable and the interiority evident and guessed. According to the author the poem is based on the lives of Elizabeth Holloway Marston, Olive Byrne and William Moulton Marston by way of The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore.
9:00am appointment re the mammal article
editing staff meeting
lunch with Sanger
hold all calls except re baby
experiment with pins
have four hands
husband barks about noise
has no office
first her household
then the work
what is done with a baby
is done to reduce options
notes under the door
boy wants to be a mom
kids are reporters
there aren’t many ways to diaper
what is this woman doing
I must alert the reader because you will find amongst this poetry collection the “weird”, you also will be surprised, intrigued and leave you wondering about the obvert and the covert meaning of some of the poems, here is an example titled “Protest Song”:
Kathleen Hanna: You offered harm as a donation.
man: Have I offended?
KH: Ass slapper.
M: All this yelling. You sick?
KH: In a Lyme hospital bed with jello.
m: The bedridden should act hopeful.
KH: Bitch needs money.
I found that some of the poems brought childhood memories like a poem about a grandmother titled “Matriarch” and the following one titled “Garbo/Dietrich” which the poet says: “Is based on pertinent sections of The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood by Diana McLellan.
How my sister and I made-believe we were
boys playing rough
yes I burn ticks squash spiders
you must’ve compared notes
you spoke out loud everyone
your trail of bees
Your voice was the phonograph
my unpainted lips are the burgundy
you expect yours to be
I fling up handfuls of primrose
and you shrug
shock them with your pants necktie
pretend we never met
clasp my unconscious body
support me firmly under my arm
with your right hand
your left hand on my shoulder
as I slip to the ground
we should’ve rehearsed
Beyond That Hill I Gather contains a powerful collection of poems that covers an expansive range of experiences including a romantic and sexual encounter like in the poem titled “Calling Calling”:
She came naked to the bed, whispering
her name was Van Gogh.
I would’ve liked that, my beauty of her.
Mashed potatoes only came with garlic.
“Both of us!”
Only from thought I love I knew, remember.
Boode boode, we called out to each other
With a German e.
We looked slant into the miles,
Saw each other’s eyelashes.
The sunset was a place where a pool swimmer
Spread his arms, “So beautiful.”
It seems made up.
By midnight, peach cobbler
Stuck to our teeth,
we swam in a circle.
Smell the love
cum and gravy.
Kingsman is without doubt a good and creative poet, Beyond That Hill I Gather demonstrates it. No aspect of life is left unexamined in his piercing poems, this powerful collection covers an expansive range of women’s experiences. I enjoyed reading it, I am very sure this book will appeal to many.
About the Reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, she writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The author’s poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish). Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications. She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.