Winner of the Motherwell Prize
Kaisa Ullsvik Miller’s debut collection affirms the reader’s perhaps heretofore unrecognized need for a gentle and daily massaging of profanely innocuous, even corporate language into deliverable spiritual meaning. This is a need that, once identified, becomes acute: We NEED to hear, for example, that “to create a deficiency or incompleteness in unique talents and abilities/ increase talents available for creating together. This is a partnership.” Or that ” . . . you/ hate/ of you,/ this tool./ transform you/ oh/ hate/ the powerful/ meet you, halfway/ loving you./ Respond to/ spreading/ peace/ and harmony,/ irrational feelings/ that you/ and you/ experience/ you hate.” Ullsvik Miller’s radical patience with received truism allows for these paradoxically indispensable communiqués to be communicated: “to provide for our needs,/ to protect us from dangerous destructive inconveniences/ we encounter// red waves/ the form of feelings We wander/ through our own guidance// . . .” In this work pronouns and referential infrastructure are blurred, allowing that feeling of incompleteness that is necessary for fresh perception. Thus communal bonds are made readily available.
“Gradually the immigrants to Colorado are developing a distinct poetry, full of new rhythms & new speech, ways of writing that couldn’t come from New York or San Francisco…I hear deep history shift & lend new inflections to how we listen, read, or speak. These poems are instantly refreshing, with their trust in people, animals, & spirits—yes, spirits—that carry one to the origins of poetry. Clear as the wind through Coal Creek Canyon.”
“These poems “never repeat the same / pattern when they sing their song.” They are “conscious at all times / in order to breathe,” in order to converse. Kaisa Ullsvik Miller observes the interconnected space between thoughts but does not lament the state of impermanence. Her images generate “a vibrational residue” on the tympanic membrane. Unspoiled Air “talk[s]our ear off perfectly sharp blue and dark.”
—Michelle Naka Pierce