What is expressed openly in Robert Frede Kenter’s visually striking Eden is often undermined by the context the book grows up and out of. This duality of meaning offers an earthquake-like event, in a place that resides somewhere between the earth and the beyond. It is a book that is impossible to hold onto as it weaves and shakes to invoke the liminal. It seems to interrogate, “do I belong in the liminal, or in the cosmos, or with a maker with all that my species has done?” It is jarring and heady stuff. And it fits the theme of a blurring between object and subject that is presented in the precursor poem. That seems to be the key for the visuals that follow.
In the titular Eden, the story begins with a very focused and many-eyed angel. The words that are immediately traceable are everyone and mine. Everyone is part of the angel structure, near the cheek, while min tapers off at the lower quadrant of the picture to say simply, min. If this moment were a chord, it would be A or D minor, a diminished or minor version of the concept of ownership, or mine has redefined itself by cutting off its tail. This poem seems to ask “what do I own, what can I take with me beyond the liminal that is really mine?” In the Python coding language, the min() function can be used to find the tiniest item between two or more parameters. It’s a linking. Which is another way of telling us that you cannot pull mine from everyone.
Another example of this phenomenon is in one of my favorites of the collection, the compelling “MERCY”. This poem offers a broad example of what the “space between notes” really means. How meaning can be obfuscated by what was there, and how there has changed over time. The word temperatures appears twice, once fully formed, and once, spliced. When spliced, the word temperatures turns into mperatures, a non-word that leans toward a begging to turn it into the word imperative—or a plural imperative. Under temperatures is the line animals are disturbing, but again, this is spliced so that the word are transforms into the word me. The two disjointed versions of the word become “I am asking for mercy”. This may seem firmly placed in the personal rather than political until the context expands with the large noun chickens. The piece seems to plead. It dips into a political moment— each one of us tries to find context while simultaneously navigating a world that is dying all around us. Because of our bloodlust, our destruction, our dysphonic grasp on eternity.
It is a compelling masterpiece of a book that I recommend to all who love visual poetry and those willing to delve into something new. I wholeheartedly believe that one could spend hours with its content and still find new life lessons strategically woven into its space.