Kate Colby is the author of Fruitlands (Litmus Press, 2006), Unbecoming Behavior (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2008), Beauport (Litmus Press, 2010), The Return of the Native (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2011), and I Mean (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015). Her first title, Fruitlands, was selected by Rosmarie Waldrop for a Norma Farber First Book Award in 2007. Chapbooks include Rock of Ages (Anadama Press) and A Banner Year (Belladonna), and recent journal publications include New American Writing, Vanitas, No: A Journal of the Arts, EOAGH, and Little Red Leaves. A recent interview about her work can be found at Bookslut. She grew up in Massachusetts, interloped in California, and now lives in Providence, RI, where she works as a teacher and copywriter.
These are poems of quiet beauty, wielding power through lovely simplicity. They wander through ideas and memories, they explore what is lost and what is learned in the process of becoming a person…
A book that is both lyrical and conversational. A book that always feels in the present. There’s beautiful music throughout… Ultimately, Beauport will set you adrift with beautiful imagery and haunting questions that will linger long after the book is finished…
In Beauport, Kate Colby tells the tale of the decorator and designer Henry Davis Sleeper, braiding in prose-lyric reminisces of her own New England upbringing and ‘anti-ekphrastic’ poems after Currier & Ives lithographs of the Victorian-era leisure class. This is Colby’s ‘sotted nineteenth century,’ peopled with antique glass buoys and ‘animate dioramas,’ where the sound of seagulls dropping quahogs on the roof echoes all day. Not since Charles Olson’s Maximus has Gloucester been so gallantly and aptly sung!
Kate Colby’s Beauport opens windows framing history framing natural and unnatural settings (traffic, waves, skylines, sky). The work presents a series of displacements, smoke and mirror memory experiments, stitching together with anachronism the physical and the metaphysical. This is a fascinating book, composing and collapsing (wing, telescope), foregrounding subject, object and sightlines in between. With its architecture of vignettes, lullabies, hymns and fragments, Colby’s Beauport constructs resistances, ever confronting its considered grace and precision in ripples of savory humors. “‘contrails, line breaks / in the sky, dawning / discontinuous'
With a fine intelligence and a subtle ear Colby tracks both instabilities and possibilities, the map that is but broken sherds and the sherds that can become a map.
The Sailor — Far — Far at Sea (1845)
The lonely but impeccably groomed tar moons over a miniature of his intended.
A square-rigger off windward
all spars and yards and pennants aflutter —
I see love!
I see love and need you to hear it: listen, I did once love someone who told me that
he and some other boys would climb onto a roof over Main Street and cast clam-baited hooks into the air, where the seagulls would catch and swallow them. The boys would then fly the gulls like kites over Main Street. The dying birds would have seen the harbor and returning trawlers, their compatriots swarming like flies over fish heads with eyes in them, fish tails, the dilapidated Manufactory
contrails, line breaks in the sky, dawning discontinuous
high over Eastern Point where they top the trees in privilege of the view
That’s love for you.
They feel something holding lenses to scorching insects, collecting weapons, throwing stars —
Sailor-Far-Far, I hope this feeling never goes away — this is consummation, is the look of time-lapsed stars moving across a life, is the megaphone through which I see you
says means also ends
you see there is no sense to this surface — I need a legend.
On a thick September afternoon Sleeper picks his way through the rangy catbrier and bracken of Eastern Point. Rendered inflexible by late summer’s drought, thorns and twigs scratch at his arms and leave their tiny appendages clinging to his trousers. The sun slants through chaff and kicked-up grit. Almost-dead things zigzag his head.
At last, he picks through to the clearing at the edge of the cliff. The fishing boats are coming home under funnel clouds of seagulls. A shiftless breeze picks up and dispels the smell of brack and diesel, carries the sound of fledgling whitecaps. A late afternoon’s half moon rises over Magnolia. All that granite.
Sleeper plans to build here and only knows what he doesn’t want: the aquamarine undersides of ship captains’ overhangs. No breath of fresh air, his home must insufflate itself
follow a single fan blade until dizzy
suck cap to your lip cup to your face
feel the ring of it somewhere something tweeting In the acute September dusk, zigzagging bats, blue sand and the moon above other human forms of illumination.