Monday, January 17, 2022

Review of Kai Coggin's "Mining for Stardust"

 Kai Coggin, Mining for Stardust (FlowerSong Press, 2021) 99 pages, poetry, $18.00. At FlowerSong Press.

Kai Coggin's latest collection is modern confessional poetry. Here you will find no symbolism or imagery for its own sake. Every poem is straightforward, literal, and usually long. It leaves nothing to the imagination. These are COVID pandemic poems, a nearly chronological journal of the poet's experience of 2020. Some are optimism in extremis, others are angry, others almost despairing. All of them are starkly honest.

The best poems are introverted rather than extroverted, self-reflecting rather than social and political. These poems tend to be a little shorter and leave the reader with more breathing room for interaction by filling the little blanks that are less literal and more suggestive within them. As in "When the Stars Fall":

the rain falls 

hard heavy

on the white petals

of jasmine

that have entwined

their soft bodies to the steel 

that holds our house 

to the earth

swirling galaxy of stars

that affixes 

us to the ground

and to the heavens combined

in the morning

a universe is scattered

under our bare feet

Some of these poems are too much of their moment to remain relevant 10 or 20 years from now. Some are truly sublime. In that sense, it's a potluck seeking to be comfort food. Its strongest argument for itself is that it will continue to be an honest, individual chronicle of a year which will surely be of interest to history. 

In January 2020, I was completing an audiobook of Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of Plague Year", which - although being fiction - is the nearest thing we have today to an actual journal of an individual living during the last substantial outbreak of bubonic plague in London just a year before the Great London Fire. I did not then know, of course, that I would immediately begin to live through a modern plague of different cause. I have often had occasion to think back on that book in the 2 years since listening to it and make comparisons and to be grateful for the differences that modernism makes in how humanity weathers such an event. (How fortunate we are to have refrigerators so that we do not have to go to market literally everyday for food! How wonderful is having the internet so as to stay in touch!) I imagine books like "Mining for Stardust" will serve a similar purpose for future generations in helping them to understand the human stories of this time.