OK, now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me try and summon a few more nouns and verbs to try and express how psyched I am to introduce the work of Karen Craigo for our latest Poetry Feature. That’ll be tough, though, because despite being someone who makes his living (more or less) off words, I tend to go mute whenever something knocks me on my ass. And Karen’s poems did just that.
Most people know Karen as the editor-in-chief of Mid-American Review, where she’s praised both for her editorial brilliance and for writing, hands down, the kindest rejection letters in the biz. But a growing number of readers are discovering that she’s also one hellacious poet—as these poems will no doubt demonstrate.
Readers of modern poetry know that all too often, contemporary verse is either exceedingly clever or exceedingly bland—meaning in the latter case that it’s so direct, so flatly narrative, that it lacks music. There are relatively few poets who can pull off wildly imaginative, lyrical acrobatics and maintain emotional resonance. However, among those shining few (many of which we’ve been privileged to publish here at Atticus Review), Karen Craigo is one of the best.
From the cartwheeling humor of “Escaped Housewife Prepares to Try Out for ‘Jeopardy!’,” to the disarming tenderness of “Milk” and “To the Goldfinch Outside East Hall,” not to mention the chilling social commentary scratching under the floorboards of “Learning to Trace the Body” and “Death by Bleeding,” Karen exhibits fantastic range and style without sacrificing one iota of poignancy and heartache. Like all good poems, Karen’s remind me of Zen koans in that they simultaneously pull my rational brain in two different, seemingly contradictory directions, the result being a kind of revelation about what it really means to be human, coupled with a realization that the world transcends logic in much the same way that good poetry transcends language. In other words, Karen’s poems offer both escape from and elucidation of the human condition…and if that weren’t enough, they’re entertaining as all hell.
So get reading. You’ll be glad you did.