Review by Miriam B. Murphy
By Katie Kingston
White Eagle Coffee Store Press, PO Box 383, Fox River Grove, IL 60021; 2006, 28 pp.
Katie Kingston's remarkable chapbook, which won White Eagle's annual competition in 2005, really resonated with this reader. What I find so compelling is her deft blending of myth, history, and the dark edge of contemporary reality.  
The setting of the poems in the vast western American landscape gives her two Spanish soldiers, Humaña and Bonilla, and characters from more recent times a perfect stage on which to reveal themselves. I can't speak for the poet's intention, of course, but I began to feel that the bygone soldiers and we of the here and now are all travelers in Purgatorio, struggling to find truth and meaning in the broken worlds of the past and present.
I asked myself (as many are asking today about current battlefields) what meaning the soldier's mother in "Hiking Deep Ravine Trail" (p. 15) will find at the Little Big Horn, "still wearing a calico skirt, still hanging Company E laundry"? Kingston leaves the reader to figure that out, only telling us that the mother's "footsteps leave the shape of deer tracks in snow." Her presence at the Little Big Horn was thus both real and ephemeral. I began to wonder if all of us striding through the parallel universes of contemporary physics, may be in much the same ambiguous state. In fact, in Purgatory.
"Homeless Woman..." (p. 3) shows us a person as real as the evening news. We recognize her stained teeth, vodka bottle, and bad language and wonder if she'll survive another night on the street. But this all too familiar dumpster diver surprises us with her knowledge of the dangers of street life and her desire to "scatter birdseed just to hear wings."
I'm impressed by Kingston's nouns, the variety of specific animals and plants that tumble naturally from her pen. Nothing is forced. Each word works to create the whole as in these lines from "Bonilla as Artist" (p.16): "I sketch river gravel, fringed sage,/frogs mating. I water plums,/fill a basket with blue corn,/strip the husk to taste kernels...." 
I read and reread Kingston's poems primarily to enjoy her fluency with language, how she weaves images into a blanket to wrap around the mind on a cold desert night. That's not to say one will always be comforted by her words. That's the province of greeting card verse. Those who love words and how they are strung together by an intelligent, reflective being will find much to ponder and treasure along Kingston's El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio.



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