Perfect Blue Kona McPhee (Bloodaxe) Poetry Review

“The Short Answer,”

“At fourteen miles per second, a simple fleck of paint
could punch a hole in you the likes of which
Jet Li would hardly credit. Consider hunting down

each mote of dust or skin that’s floating in this room,
then tracking its meanderings for ever:
that’s what it’s like up there, where every dot of mass

in orbit must be plotted, where a misplaced spanner’s
not mere irritation, but a debt
of slipped attention doomed to endless interest; so

it’s fortunate for us things move at measured pace
down here, and tend to linger where we drop them;
thus objects that would waltz away in zero-G,

their glinting arms extended, waving last goodbyes,
instead stay where they were: in other words,
my dearest, no, I don’t know where your car keys are.”

Kona McPhee’s deceptively simple lyricism makes it hard to pick a section for a quote because of the poem’s completeness.  That’s not to say she doesn’t do form: there’s a compact, effective villanelle and her poems are carefully structured.

In “Perfect Blue”, a section called “Diseases” is book-ended by two sections called “Perfect Blue” within the middle section is a poem on “Cholera” where Tchaikovsky’s baton

“laid to its satined bed
like the long shank of a pale and lovely boy;

the subtle prescience of future crowds
whose ghostly tribute massed on Nevsky Prospect,

the secret life in a clear glass of water.”

Kona McPhee remains objective, refusing to include personal subjectivity in her poems, even in an apparently personal situation, jottings in a margin or a fortune cookie, in “The Assessment”,

Your sentiments are balanced on the cusp
of artlessness and visibility
he noted in the margin, in red ink.

At lunch, the fortune cookie said: The one
who says it can’t be done should not disturb
the one who’s doing it – which didn’t seem

to capture it exactly.  On the street,
a tram let off its bell, then bombed away
to overscore the ruled lines of its rails.”

She moves from personal to general, slipping away as the tram is guided by its rails.  She guides her poems too, using rhythm and enjambment to complement sense, but, like the tram’s rails, you’re not forced to be aware of them but are happy to sit in the tram and ride.


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