This chapbook was chosen by contest judge Dr. Richard Taylor as the winner of the Accents Publishing 2010 Poetry Chapbook Contest.
“Kates’s brief lyrics, in taut lines that employ rhyme, often slant, are full of chainsaws, mauls, and the finished product. These are quintessentially New England poems to savor.”
About the Author
J. Kates is a poet, literary translator and the president and co-director of Zephyr Press. He received a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry in 1984 and a Translation Project Fellowship in 2006, as well as an Individual Artist Fellowship from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts in 1995. He is the translation editor of Contemporary Russian Poetry, and the editor of In the Grip of Strange Thoughts: Russian Poetry in a New Era. A former president of the American Literary Translators Association, he is also the co-translator of three books of Latin American poetry, and has a chapbook of his own poems, Mappemonde (Oyster River). (From the publisher’s website)
Before reading this little compilation of poems, I had never heard of J. Kates, and there really isn’t much information about him on the internet. All I found was the little About the Author paragraph above (on multiple sites) and a blog entry on Goodreads.com. However, there is a lot of information about the editor of the book, Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. She has a website, a Facebook page, a MySpace page, a professional profile on LinkedIn, and a Goodreads Quotes page. Interesting contrast.
This little collection of J. Kates’ poems — little only because it is 30 pages long from cover to cover — contains 27 poems that were previously published by various reviews located across the country. The poems themselves reminded me again and again of reading Robert Frost. Not that I am comparing Kates to Frost; I found many parallels in the subject matter used by the two authors. Kates’ subjectmatter is the outdoors: dirt, stones, weather, and relationships between regular people.
Kates’ wording is very snug, tight, and stable. Some poems are very short, like the first poem in the collection, Stakes, which is all of 9 lines long. His use of imagery is extremely enjoyable. For this reason, one of my favorites is called Learning to Shoot.
The reader can actually see these words in their mind’s eye, knowing the thrill, and possibly a little nervousness, the child narrator is feeling about his first opportunity to shoot a real gun at actual targets. Not all of the poems are concerned with imagery as they are about feeling and emotion. Kates’ poem, Places of Permanent Shade provides a great example of this.
What I liked most about Kates’ writing is his style: very laid back, relaxed. But there is a lot of emotion there, especially love: for the outdoors, for people, places. Very reminiscent of Frost’s style. If you are a fan of Robert Frost’s poetry, you will really enjoy J. Kates as well.