Becka Mara McKay: A Meteorologist in the Promised Land
Published 15 March 2010
Paperback, 84pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15
In these poems, the reader carries her "lone heartbeat" while sifting through the confusion of a psychically, physically rubbled world. There is loss, transcribed literally as spaces in the poems, because in truth there is no "word-/for-word translation." But in this stark landscape there is the "body's strange persistence"; there are meanings made and held close, words collected "in secret". Language equals transcendence and the bridge on which all other things are built: "tell me// your name."
Through a marvelous diversity of style, form, and voice, the thread of spirit—of questing for it, of questioning it—leads us through this uncommonly strong first collection. Just beneath its surface runs a meditation on translation, on the peculiar kind of carrying over that begins in language and somehow overflows into our bodies, memories, times. This is a book that takes on difficult reconciliations, both cultural and personal. Does everything come down to capitulation or resistance? McKay asks—and then, refusing the ease of answers, she remains vertiginously in the heart of the questions.—Cole Swensen
"Blood has its own syntax," writes Becka McKay in her debut collection. A translator, interpreter, and guide, the speaker of this volume not only instructs us in the languages of our postmodern geopolitical Babel—"the boy took my breat / in his mouth. Do you love it, / he asked. Hebrew / has no word for like"—but in lexicons of the inner life as well, from the "infinite grammars of betrayal," to "the linguistics of clouds," which "changes from country to country." Only a writer endowed with McKay's rueful cosmopolitanism could title a lyric 'You are Not Here,' leaving her reader both unsettled and, curiously, at home before the poem even begins. Ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Jerusalem to more fugitive topographies such as Utopia and "the kingdom of transitive verbs," McKay's speaker ultimately arrives at the fugitive yet purposive source of lyric utterance itself: "your mouth is always part river, part crossing."—Srikanth Reddy
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