While the poems in Keetje Kuipers' first book, Beautiful in the Mouth, closely examine loss--particularly how women experience the loss of lovers, homes, children, even their own bodies--her new work, The Keys to the Jail, looks to identify who is at fault for those losses: who can we blame? The speakers in these new poems blame themselves for everything: the harsh words of failed love, the aging of a once beautiful body, even their own voracious desires. Their self-condemnation becomes apparent as Keetje teases out two speakers--two selves--in the poems. While she has always been interested in the use of persona, the new poems in The Keys to the Jail attempt to capitalize on our ideas of female roles and the obligations that come with them, finding failure in the self who cannot succeed as a mother or a wife, a sex symbol or a daughter.
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"In these poems, longing is only shaped like emptiness, but really is filled with everything one might reach toward or put their mouth to as they sate themselves on desire. The Keys to the Jail. are what they promise to be, an opening of the dark rooms within us, not to escape but to enter, to let the eyes adjust and learn to see what bright wants exist there."
"Quietly ferocious, The Keys to the Jail is full of love and after-love poems that come clad with “bell[ies] of rusted steel.” These poems are not afraid to feel, not afraid of desire or beauty or the inevitability of their respective undoings, not afraid “to eat the filter on the cigarette.” Yet there is such generosity here in the ‘repenned’ landscape – out among the wolves and ghosts, the rodeo queens and Dairy Queens –that we are allowed to glean from hunger, a form of contentment, and still welcome the cavernous desire for more."
"Keetje Kuipers' poems are daring, formally beautiful and driven by rich imagery and startling ideas."
Beautiful in the Mouth
What happens when the things we care for—children, lovers, parents, dreams, homes—are taken away? What populates our landscapes and how do we perceive those objects? Written over the course of five years and a geographic journey spanning Paris to New York to Montana, Kuipers’ debut collection of poems, Beautiful in the Mouth, examines contemporary female loss in terms of literal and figurative geography: the empty bedroom of a dead child, a clear-cut hillside outside of a logging town. Kuipers continues in the spirit of poets like Elizabeth Bishop to examine how loss forces itself upon unwilling landscapes and how those landscapes must alter to receive that loss.
“I was immediately struck by the boldness of imagination, the strange cadences, and wild music of these poems. We should be glad that young poets like Keetje Kuipers are making their voices heard not by tearing up the old language but by making the old language new.”
"These soulful poems travel the landscape of body, desire, loss, and love’s conflicted ecstasies. From wilderness to big cities, coastlines to dive bars, nothing goes unnoticed or unpraised, down to the faded roses on the motel wallpaper. Kuipers’ voice haunts, indelible with mourning, grace and an elegant wisdom. This is a poet beautiful in the mouth."
"These are poems with an unmistakeable sense of adventure. They attempt large themes, mixing the erotic with landscape and memory. Keetje Kuipers writes about subjects as different as Memorial Day, a soccer team and a Northwestern spring. But the real adventures here are not just in theme. They are also in tone, craft and voice. This is a memorable first collection."
"Brooklyn parties and Montana creeks. Merle Haggard and girls' soccer teams. Hurricanes and gullies, eviction notices and women's shoes. These are a few of the disparate things that make up Kuipers' landscapes of love, unrest and womanhood--familiar American landscapes here made eerily, winningly unfamiliar. There's a lyric glow, a breadth of feeling and a frank sensuality to this book that feels like the past pushing into the future. A pleasure to read."