Being as much a music fan as I am a book fan, I understand the concept of label loyalty in a way that most book fans (and book merchants; for example, you can't search Amazon based on press) don't quite seem to. But just like small music labels, it is often the case that small presses, once you've found one where a few books are to your liking, will reward you time and again for checking their products out. Exact Change Press and Future Tense books are two great ones, for my money, but the eight hundred pound gorilla in this particular room has always been Kent State University Press, especially their Wick Chapbook series. I think I've run across two books that haven't thrilled me among the scads I've read over the past few years from the world of Wick. Now I can add Nixon and I, Karen Kovacik's first chap, to the win column. It's not only because the poetry is stellar, but because in a few short pages, Kovacik actually carries through on the promise of her title; it's not just a few poems about Nixon and a few poems about I (one can surmise the “I” is Kovacik, but that is never a given in poetry), but poems that interconnect, intertwining the two personalities to make the poems about Nixon just as intimate as the poems about I.
“It began as a game with his grandkids, an absurd pursuit
and drift on the grass, in the shrubs,
his slacks stained at the knee, his dress shirt ringed with sweat—
so unlike the thinking man's sport of poker
in which eye and hand do their rapacious deed
with grace. How easy the bluff and bid
compared to this lawn democracy.
“Make your fingers into a peace sign, Grandpa,”
the twelve-year-old says, demonstrating how to sail
the saucer low and steady rather than curving
it back like a staircase. How true the maxim
about bird in hand....”
(“The Philosopher Nixon at Frisbee”)
In the ten years since this volume, Kovacik has gone on to fame and fortune, or whatever passes for fame and fortune among the poetry set, and that is all well and good; anyone who caught this chapbook back when it first came out is well aware that that was simple destiny at work. These are very good poems, and well worth your time; Wick chapbooks are not all that easy to find years after printing (unless you live in the area; I find them on a surprisingly regular basis at local Half Price Books stores), but they're well worth using up one of your precious Interlibrary Loan slots to take a look. Pick a random one; you're likely to get something very good. Nixon and I is as good a place to start as any, and better than quite a few. ****
eBook Nixon and I