Review: River Antes by Myung Mi Kim

River Antes
River Antes by Myung Mi Kim

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So rarely do books come close to mastery that I’m a tentative to make issue of M. Crosses’ latest chapbook. It could be a jinx.

River Antes is an almost perfect orientation of language and how it is read, a virtual poetics of materialization, and to me: a form of quiet to be found in only the most rare works. I say quiet because it does not do more. Because it is efficient. From the white cover to its hidden triptychs; Crosses’ elegant book design is lovingly situated within the text, no more loud or quiet than the poems themselves. Negotiation between text and material is so precise and deliberate (without the usual self-satisfaction I usually sense from like projects) it’s ideas about art, about books, about poems go quiet. Ahhhh, quiet. The language and the material give way, unfold into the other, to the point that both exist in unison, in silence. (I think I’m feeling something akin to what C. Alexander calls creating space in creating space…etc.) What comes to mind is something serene and spacial, an orientation of language beyond (and because of) the book.

That’s not to say that Kim’s writing is quiet. Just the opposite actually. There are rips & gouges in the language, physical tears. Which is why I’m so floored by the work.There’s a lot of attempts right now, some notable and others not, to create assemblages: either architectural, tactile, hyper-textual, etc. My problem with the majority of these is simple: the idea trumps the work. When the description of the work becomes more interesting than the experience of the work (in many of these cases, the idea describes the experience or process); I feel the modality slip. The artist becomes a theorist. Which is great, fine, whatever, but not as interesting to me.

River Antes was a fresh breath–an experience of an idea (rather than an idea of an experience). The writing and book-making make up a kind of fabric that is enunciated (er, extended) simultaneously, a unique assemblange that few projects really achieve. What makes it so special? I’m not really sure. What strikes me is the extreme amount of care, the love for things like paper and fonts, the efficiency of material, then the quiet. The absolute quiet.

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