Demos: An American Multitude

Milkweed. Mar. 2021. 96p. ISBN 9781571315250. pap. $16. POETRY
With this latest collection, Kingsley writes an encompassing work that’s thematically wide-reaching and formally and linguistically playful, boasting poems that change in style, perspective, and temperament from one to the next. Kingsley proves an engaging, cerebral guide through it all, directing his attention down myriad paths and even questioning his own function and ethical responsibility: “i wonder / how often i have mistaken myself / for the seer for the see-er and others simply as the seen.” But for all its bold probing, the collection is ultimately too haphazard to entirely work. Its overall structure can be jarring: heady disquisitions bleed into minimalist interludes before jumping into formal experiments, like a poem lifted from a news article’s racist comment section, or a series of Punnett square poems that work better in theory than in formal execution. Kingsley’s diction is equally brazen, with similarly mixed results: his comparison of a lit cigarette’s embered end and a “blossoming peach” is considerably more successful than a line like “Here no Merlin / will shoulder the spell / of all your weight.”
VERDICT There are impressive moments liberally littered throughout this work, which brims with important rhetoric, but finally it feels a bit too scattered.
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