REVIEW – KATHERINE OSBORNE, DESCANSOS

By Laura Potts

There is an obvious mythical essence to a number of the poems in Descansos, the new collection of poetry from Katherine Osborne, published by Salò Press, coupled with a flowing connection of the surreal which makes its way through each of the works, treading lightly on some and firmly on others. Throughout the poems, there is an unexpectedness of themes and figures, from God to Buffalo. This shift is sudden, like a stream of consciousness or a narrative story. Moreover, the pieces throughout this book seem to have been produced in a more automatic manner: repetition in titles, along with numbers and extended use of brackets. These automatic devices are sporadic and run parallel to themes of loss and nostalgia; both of which lead to a noticeable automatic writing style.

The first few poems in this series, namely (Cross Lake, 2015), Northern Woods Doll Turned Away and God Particle, have undertones of a very narrative style. Within the book, the reader enters a reality formed from strong belief systems yet distorted by the myths and once-facts of past generations. Recurring themes of Jesus and God add to this mythical frustration of modern day. The storytelling style narrative of the poems is left unresolved, and it seems to leave tension within the writing while also whetting the human appetite for fiction. This is more effective as it is reminiscent of a stream of consciousness, a type of style which harnesses personal recollection and merging it with storytelling. This narrative style is more effective within the book than some of the structures used in other poems, such as Dark Festival which adopts well-spaced line breaks throughout the poem and encourages the reader to compartmentalise the poem.

As mentioned in the introduction, unexpected themes feature throughout; (Manifestation Ritual, 2018) is a good example of a poem which champions the unexpected nature of the collection . With its use of scattered rhetoric, it offers the reader a self-reflection amongst the surreal and mythical realities. Lines such as ‘I sign to the crops that alibi the pesticides driven into their lyric’ begin to develop a metaphor of the natural mixing with the mythical and musical; an unexpected connection. When using nature as a metaphor, it is often associated with the human condition: the ways in which we allow the world or desire the world to mirror our own emotions. Lines such as ‘I make the river change direction’, almost personify the natural world and can offer comfort to the reader who can imagine and share the imagery being created. Although this work is ethereal, memorial and surreal, they still fit neatly into a bracket and pander to a few tried classics. The consistent style however does mean that the works can be read one after another fluidly. The poem’s subsequent efforts at sublimation might fall short, however, the combination of the mythical and narrative makes for incredibly interesting reading.

many of these poems travel as the writer makes eventual peace with the thoughts, memories and experiences

Memory and loss emerge as themes in many of the works and both deserve recognition. This memory, again, seems to be incomplete, almost automatically recalled. As if it is being drawn from a distant section of the mind, a surreal tendency is built as the distortion of the thoughts is blatant. A section from (Magical Thinking) helps to explain this observation. ‘My friend, you were not the one that hurt the animals. You were not the one that hurt the animals. You were not the one’. The panicked memory is clear here, thinking in repetition as one might do in their own head. The poem also balances on loss and the psychology which surrounds it as a condition. Poems with these themes and therefore abilities can often read as blameful or bitter, however, many of these poems travel as the writer makes eventual peace with the thoughts, memories and experiences of each of the works. The automatic writing style supports this notion as it could be closely associated with memory recollection or psychological trauma;the writer’s automatic desire to document and resolve.

To conclude, Descansos could be interpreted as a self-reflective work which aims to heal and indulge a number of personal emotions of the writer. When shared, there would be a number of individuals who will find great comfort in this, yet there is also the risk of alienating many others who might not want to face their own loss. The divide in this audience might lead to the works residing or appealing to fewer individuals, on account of the strong, poignant emotive content. This need not be a limitation. The surreal nature of the works, coupled with the automatic style and personal element, offer enjoyable reading regardless.

Descansos is published by and available through Salò Press

Featured image credit: Salò Press


The Norwich Radical is non-profit and run by volunteers. All funds raised help cover the maintenance costs of our website, as well as contributing towards future projects and events. Please consider making a small contribution to fund a better media future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.