Review: Michael S.Begnal reviews Kate Behrens’ The Beholder

This is an excerpt from a Michael S. Begnal’s guest review of Kate Behrens’ The Beholder which appears in its entirety as the Thursday, 26 July 2012 post here.

 Kate Behrens is a poet active in Reading, England, and was runner-up in a contest run by the journal Mslexia. A slim volume (41 pages), The Beholder (Two Rivers Press, 2012) is her first collection. Never having read her work before, some of the blurbs on the back cover set alarm bells off in my head. There were references to “fleeting moments between people”, “celebration”, “the ways children can heal”, and “nature’s capacity to nourish”. Please, not another poetry collection about “healing” and “nourishing”!, I thought to myself. Then I actually began reading Behrens’s poetry and was stunned by it. Thankfully her work is nothing at all like what this sort of promotional copy suggests.

Instead of dull personal narratives about this or that event in the poet’s “life”, intended as direct transposition, Behrens lets the words on the page shimmer forth with their own power and beauty. Like a painting by Cézanne or van Gogh, the “subjects” of these works are not really the things themselves, but rather the ways in which they are interpreted, felt, rendered through a medium (paint in the former examples, language for Behrens). The collection’s title, then, is an apt one. To be fair to the blurb writers, there is a reference to the poet’s “oblique” methods, and Brian Patten notes that “her language is idiosyncratic” — yes, and happily so. Without knowing a thing about the poet or her “Italian childhood” (another blurb reference), I found the experience of reading The Beholder to be refreshing and fun.