Poet's work explores themes of love, loss
This article was published on 2/8/2006 in the Westmont Progress, a Liberty Suburban Chicago Newspaper.
Poet's work explores themes of love, loss
By Patti Murphy
"You were born with it/It grew inside
like a brush fire/Moths stayed clear, thin shreds of men turned to
paper dolls, ... This is life, you breathe as the paper dolls march."
These are the enigmatic words of poet Kathy Kubik in her piece "This Fire" from the poetry chapbook "The Secret of Ivory Vows." A chapbook is a small book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads or stories.
"When you get married there are a lot of secrets, a lot of things
people don't tell you about marriage, like how hard it can be," said
Kubik, who lives in Westmont with her husband, in reference to the
title of the short book. The cover shows a wedding dress on an ominous
Released online in late January, Kubik's third chapbook is composed of
26 pieces that examine the themes of love, lust and loss. Her choice of
words and conveyed images are meant to trap and subtly seduce the
"This book is different in that the voice is a little bit stronger,"
Kubik said. "Everything is related to love and loss. It isn't safe
Kubik believes her poetry is distinctive in that it is accessible to just about anyone.
"Many poets use language that is difficult to understand," she said. "A
lot of people who don't like poetry like my pieces because they're
about the experience, not pulling out the dictionary."
Kubik's works are available on www.lulu.com, a site that facilitates
the printing and publishing of authors through digital communication.
"It's really hard to get a poetry chapbook published because the
competition is so fierce," she said. "When you submit to a publishing
company, it can take up to a year to hear if they're even interested."
Kubik found out about lulu.com through a friend and enjoys the service
because she is able to have complete creative control. Books are
compiled and shipped through the Web site when they are ordered. Kubik
has sold 10 copies of "The Secret of Ivory Vows" so far.
"I get 80 percent of the royalties and lulu.com collects the rest,"
said Kubik. "It costs about $5 to make the book so the Web site makes
about 50 cents off of every book sold and I make $2."
A printed copy of the chapbook costs $7.97, before shipping, and an electronic version can be downloaded for $2.76.
Kubik is working on another book of poetry about her time spent in
England. A 2003 English graduate of DePaul University, she went with
others from the university to visit the country's cathedrals. When she
discovered she had forgotten her camera, she used her pen to create
"This book will be a lot more spiritual than things I've done in the past," Kubik said.
She hopes to have the collection completed in a few weeks. Another
woman on the trip took black-and-white photos of the cathedrals and
these images will decorate the cover and pages of the collection.
"The title of each poem will be the name of the cathedral and the
reader will be able to compare the pictures with my words," she said.
Kubik received second place at the Poetry Board League in 2004 and was
shortlisted in 2005 for a Ragdale Fellowship, which offers
accommodations for artists and writers from the U.S. and several other
countries at a Lake Forest estate.
A number of places in the city host poetry readings of which Kubik has
been a part, including performances at the WomanMade Gallery and
Chicago Poetry Festival.
She will be a guest on 88.7 WLUW-FM, the Loyola University radio
station, on the "Wordslingers" program hosted by Michael Watson from 8
to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 5. To listen to the live broadcast, go to
Letter eX investigates the MOST WANTED poets in the city of Chicago.
Songs in Red
A Book of Poetry by Kathy Kubik
Reviewed by C. J. Laity
Kathy Kubik's collection captures portraits of the difficult subjects
in life with an unflinching lens. It's as if she holds the keys to what
lies behind closed doors. Divorce. Spousal abuse. Alcoholism. Drug
addiction. Racism. Depression. Death. Kubik refuses to shy away from
shock imagery and evokes a frightening realism during the juxtaposition
of colors as metaphors (such as the color blue as a wound, first
physical, then mental) on the very first page, all the way to the
entirely satisfying, Hubert Selby-ish, female empowering conclusion
that uses traditional form as a means of protest (and which is by far
the most disturbing sestina you are ever likely to read, especially
within the context of this book as a whole). And by shock imagery, I do
not mean cheap gross outs or gratuitous violence, but the actual
nightmarish, detached perceptions one might experience during the
physical condition of shock, such as what might be perceived during an
I wait, count grooves
on the ceiling
as shadow puppets
form along streaked green
walls. They turn into clouds.
or, perhaps, this gut wrenching thought that pops up in the mind of a victim during a rape:
I lost my lunch.
there's the tuna sandwhich I ate just hours ago
on whole wheat honey nut bread.
(from "stalks of roses")
Like a clearing of the soul, Kubik faces these difficult memories,
these moments lost by the blur of shock. These memories are at times
personal and at other times based on the lives of fictional as well as
historical characters. The less personal moments, such as in the poem
"night swimming" (which is about a doe and her fawn drinking in a
stream), are far and few in-between, and seem to be symbolic of the
mind's escape into tranquillity in the midst of horror. But the reader
is often ripped right out of this escape like a sudden scream, as is
symbolized by the abrupt changes from first, to third, to second person
points of view in "stalks of roses" ( * the italics are mine):
His hands didn't stop
they crossed boundaries and continued to violate.
One covered my mouth
as I so many times screamed NO
they started to blend together
like ON became still oh no, as you ripped and tore.
The poem continues to describe, in alarming detail, how these moments of shock can haunt the victim eternally:
Every night now I write frantic nightmares,
visions of feet fleeing shadows,
the shadows becoming clearer, darker,
With ominous results, these hair-raising inflictions possessing the
characters Kubik concentrates on is described as casually as this, from
the point of view of a cab driver observing his customer:
that look, a bugged-out crazy jittery
fox he was. Hand shakin' as he points
the way, unable to keep his behind
on the darn seat, so anxious for his
(from "chicago bound blues")
And without passing judgement, the innocence of youth, once thought to
be everlasting, comes crashing down under the weight of one heart
aching blow of reality after another:
. . .I wanted
Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights,
would settle for lady Chatterley's Lover,
not this surgical probing,
cold, petroleum jelly
However, the girl-turned-woman never surrenders to any of this, always
knowing she deserves better, continuing on in her quest for
empowerment, finding it in her own strength, and eventually fighting
back by taking control of her own life:
I want synchronized swimming,
water on skin,
bodies folded as one,
sleek as water snakes in sea grass
plunging deep, precise,
whirlpool of pulsating shades of blue.
(both quotes from "first sex")
Talk about powerful stuff! This is poetry that not only will make you
feel something, but that will make you feel like a firecracker has gone
off in your heart. Bold, brutal, beautiful—this is what Chicago poetry
is all about.
--C. J. Laity
Songs in Red can be purchased by stopping by Woman Made Gallery and can
be purchased online by visiting http://www.KathyKubik.com.