Kathryn Regina’s I am in the air right now (see publisher details page, which includes a brilliant promo clip by the great Greg Lytle) concerns, for me, weightlessness induced by the heavy feelings we carry. This paradox Regina sets up is a great formal device. Through the collection of poems, we come to learn of the narrator and her ‘fall out’ (that’s my pun) with a boy named Pedro while in a hot air balloon.
Regina’s writing brings to mind the phrase ‘soft surrealism’ (Shane Jones does too), in which the prosaic world is described slightly askew; the components are recognizable, but something is off. (I say ‘soft’ because a lot of surrealism stems from a European heady-ebullience which is contrast in tone.) This ‘offness’ is full of perfect small epiphanies of perception (culled from different poems):
i met pedro in the air. he was collecting letters. he was assembling pieces of cloud.
do blue eyes surface in a baby the way hot air rises?
east is going extinct
this hot air balloon has a flat tire and a false bottom.
there is a funeral in my kneecap.
The first piece, “Interview with a Hot Air Balloonist,” has a quirky humor to it. (“Q: Why did you become a hot air balloonist? A: Someone stole my bicycle.”) The ending’s abstract ‘punchline’ is handled wonderfully, evoking space beyond the text. This piece really gives the collection breadth.
Obliquely inserted, accompanying the collection/story, are a bear (I will admit I was not thrilled by another post-Tao Lin bear appearing in poetry), a midwife, an auto-mechanic, a candy-striper, and other vivid characters. One soon suspects the cast is self-summoned by the narrator for the lonely balloon ride.
As we move along, it becomes unclear if Pedro is the narrator’s ill-fated suitor, or if it was some other boy (“when i loved you i was thinking of someone else”). The emotional ambivalence, unfortunate for love lives, makes for great material.
Mark Rothko’s paintings dealt timeless landscape-embedded horizons; the two blurry bands of color lounging in our heads as surrogate land and sky. His lament (suicide) was/is pedestrian and flightless. It is fitting that our narrator (Regina?) had a ‘brief affair’ with him.
Regina has two things which are rarely put together: sharp humorous wit along with a poetic/philosophical vision of the world. The borderline melodrama is quickly counteracted by a well placed wise-crack. She is a bright calming heavy light sad and funny voice. I am in the air right now is written with a generous, thus often hurt, heart. This collection is a reprieve from gravity. Kathryn, come down, oh come down, but slowly.