Kathy Kubik


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
Staff writer

"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 black background.

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 reader.

"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 territory."

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 lasting memories.

"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 www.wluw.org.

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 abortion:

I wait, count grooves
on the ceiling
as shadow puppets
form along streaked green
walls. They turn into clouds.

(from "Choice")

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,
becoming you.

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
happy fix.

(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.