Book Review: Swan Wreck, Casey Renee Kiser (2007)

October 15th, 2014 12:55 pm by Kelly Garbato

Raw, Authentic, Irreverent

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program.)

there will be two hits…
my words hitting the paper
and your eyes hitting my words…

I’d been trying to win a copy of one of Casey Renee Kiser’s poetry collections on Library Thing and Goodreads for months when my name finally came up for Swan Wreck. (As to why I didn’t just shell out ten bucks for a copy, I can hardly justify buying new books when my TBR pile numbers in the hundreds. Not unless it’s on sale, anyway. Priorities!) I don’t read a whole lot of poetry, but the dark, morbid themes and irreverent humor apparent in the book’s titles (I Liked You When I Thought I Was Dead; Spit Me Out; Darkness Plays Favorites) called to me.

The 129 poems that comprise Swan Wreck are gritty, authentic, and shoot straight from the heart/hip. Kiser tackles a breadth of difficult, “Lifetime Movie of the Week” topics – depression, anxiety, suicide, beauty, self-esteem, poverty, grief, loss, failed relationships, consumerism, even insomnia and the process of writing – with varying levels of success. While I enjoyed many of the poems, more than once I was left wondering what I had just read. (Kiser even makes a joke of this in “Anything, Nothing, Something”: “The point of this poem / could be ANYTHING…or NOTHING…or SOMETHING… / Does anyone out there known ANYTHING?”) I wasn’t in love with the use of caps, nor the c-word and the use of the word “rape” as a metaphor or other figure of speech (although to be fair, it’s entirely possible that the reference was both literal and over my head; poetry, not my strong suit).

A few of my favorite pieces include “Dreams Like Jackets” (“Dreams cover themselves up / like jackets over books / to let fantasy walk across”); “The Disturbed One” (“They call her Sunshine / but she’s on the moon’s mind”); “Eye Candy” (“I can only relate to you / in pieces”); “Shallow Water” (“Did God take a new job yesterday / In advertising / And fire all the black sheep?”); “The Anxiety Society” (“eye contact / is not on the agenda”); and “Pretty in Pink,” “For a Moment,” “Smart Girls,” and “The Clouds Break Apart” (all of which are so lovely that a mere excerpt couldn’t possibly do them justice).

Artwork created by Kiser’s then-ten-year-old daughter Jasmyn Taylor Givens complements the collection’s moody tone nicely; sketches of fairies, dragons, unicorns, vampires, and angels abound.

I feel more than a little self-conscious attempting to assign a starred rating to something as subjective and personal as a book of poetry, but for the purposes of this review, I think Swan Wreck is a solid 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 on Amazon and Goodreads. Published in 2007, it’s one of Kiser’s older books (predated only by Gutter Kisses and a Hug on Garbage Day); I’m really curious to see how she’s developed as an artist in the intervening years.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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