REVIEWS & CONVERSATIONS: PALM LINES – JONATHAN KOVEN (TOHO PUBLISHING)

There are many ways to classify a body of work as poetry. In traditional sense, these factors may include the break and dictation, the rhythm and rhyme. In rare cases however, it is spurred by a body of work’s ability to resolve you, yet leave you yearning at the same time. Palm Lines accomplishes this with ease. This collection reads with the ebb and flow of observing the world, existing amongst it and considering its existence simultaneously.

“I want people to read this as a journey from beginning to end, but also be able to pick it up and read a random poem and not feel a disconnect from the context. Hard to balance, for sure, but that was my intent.”

Palm Lines contains a multitude of hard hitting lines utilizing a nuanced approach to challenging perspectives.. To begin, Reflective Convalescence‘s “Reasons, reasons, reasons: to become invisible and endless, like chlorine recycled in the filter” acts almost as a warm up lap. Koven’s work prepares its reader to delve further into his cognitive approach. This brings me to the absolute stand out Mosquito which in small part reads “or maybe this wait is sitting with a family at a kitchen table listening to birdsong or maybe both and knowing this means little to anyone or anything and I wait forever”, and resounds in a way satisfyingly inexplicable. “It’s like sensory overload—everything connecting to everything—and how it ends where it begins” replies Koven when asked to discuss that poem specifically. As the collection continues, specific names of his loved ones are frequently used. However, in no way does this make the work’s emotion feel isolated from the reader or limited to those mentioned. “I am lucky to be simply man, know safety in dialect spoken only by wisps swimming Delana’s eyes” reads I Write About Comets, in a subtle intertwine with the lines “I’m drunk but not enough, to confess, your open mouth is a comet, I often wish upon, Delana” from We Won’t Share The Wish We Make. One final piece of note is the closing Precipice, which concretely leaves nothing to be desired.

“It’s a revealing of myself. I’m trying to give myself away to the reader with this book. And I pray the reader will feel it within themselves, even if our lives don’t look the same.”

In the loops of thought and tenses (past, present and future), Palm Lines surprised me. Its abstract chromatic cover initially caught my attention, but its content is what truly connected with me. Since completing its pages, I daydream of skies raining amethyst and words of wisdom yelled from random apartments windows. What Koven reinforces (for me), is that evisceration is not always an abhorrent dissection. In truest form (and in my opinion the best cases), it’s an incision into the soul and a true release of words that can only be translated accurately on paper. That is one of the (paradoxically) few and many ways in which I define a collection as poetry.

Purchase your copy of Palm Lines here

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