Review: Slow Slidings, by M. Kitchell

I’ve seen M. Kitchell’s name before, but I’ve never read any of his work until his was in a project that I was also featured in; though it was a series of photographs, so technically I still hadn’t read any of his work until I read Slow Slidings. Truthfully, I felt awful for not having read his book, or any of his work before now.

Kitchell’s work is very much like Samuel Beckett, in Beckett’s entrapment of constantly reverberating nonlinear thoughts. Together, these nonlinear thoughts reside with the non-sequential, and together, a cataclysm forms the ambiguous shape that is Slow Slidings. In the wake of such destruction that shape is fragmented pockets of selves, stories, and beings, not entities; anything, everything, and nothing, perfect and tainted, waiting to be read, itching. Slow Slidings is a crawling phenomenon—yet from a distance, you do not know what the creature is going to do.

There are three separate yet interlinked sections—”Architecture,” “Bodies or Objects,” and “Landscape”—each individual worlds, ranging from a room that only holds drawers, to deserts, to the self; each section is concerned with movement, and in very different contexts. I feel as though “place” and the differentiation of motives and actions applied within that context is a running theme in Kitchell’s work, for his latest piece published in Cityscapes was a selection of self-portraits within places he has lived since moving to San Francisco, California.

The context of each episode within Slow Slidings explores a primitive human psyche, decisions made under pressure and decisions made under force, and the narrative is a self-absorbed sphere that wants to partake in basic human connections, but is held back by nothing more than itself—this doesn’t change due to context; the self within the text, instead, stays familiar to the reader. “Architecture” is the section that will leave a lasting impression, due to the sheer obscurity of the text:

An indistinguishable body enters the house, the room, and opens a drawer at eye level. Inside: nothing, blank wood. The body pulls out a pencil and pushes lead into grain, leaving strange marks, passionate asemic love letters.

Kitchell routinely plays games with synonyms. His momentous use of singular words constructs narratives that are haunted by dream-like apparitions, fictitious yet blurred incessantly to no end. Still, Slow Slidings is concrete, a mass of gravel and stone, and it is lyrical, something unknowingly beautiful. It is Dystopian in its execution—the end is near, yet the end is singular; the end is a personal journey, not something shared. The narrative absolutely begs a response from the reader, for it is near impossible to sit there and read it without having some sort of emotive reaction toward what Kitchell has written. Slow Slidings supplies the catharsis needed if you are emotionally stunted, the intellectual curiosity if you are lobotomised:

burning air, warm ocean, watch fish bubble to the surface, their death smells of coastal restaurants, tourist resorts, today i want the sun to be death, unending hole into the body of god, the refuse my excess, the dead fish in the sea, the memory of vacation and rest, blood vessels pumping in front of my skull

The concern for the visual aesthetic is something I’m very fond of as a reader and writer. In Slow Slidings, broken islands of text lead elsewhere, are roads to new events, happenings that contribute forever. The weaving of text is one of the more positive aspects of the book, but by no means is this the only positive aspect. There are photographs, and perhaps this makes it more confusing for the reader, perhaps it makes it more clear, but overall, I found the book more wholesome for it. The direction that Kitchell strides in is an exclusive direction—this book is a prime example of freedom, both in a literary and artistic sense.

Comparisons are cheap, cheap things, but if comparisons have to be made, I’d personally say Slow Slidings is prime-time television for the damned. Think Kathy Acker meets Samuel Beckett for the first time in a laugh-track sitcom, and then Beckett secludes himself in the corner of a very small room for a few episodes, due to what he perceived was Acker’s brutish demeanor, but was, in fact, her being excited to meet another writer of such renown; then Nick Cave, neighbour to Beckett, breaks in and soothes out Beckett’s ego with a song. Slow Slidings is a strange yet wonderful mix that is executed to perfection.

Slow Slidings, by M. Kitchell. Blue Square Press, 2012. 123 pages. $12.00, paper.

Thom James is a visual poet and artist. He has been published and is forthcoming in Pop Serial, Cityscapes, Housefire, Ribbon Pig Press, Internet Poetry, and more. His e-book of poetry entitled Jesus Christ Bury Me Already (2012) was distributed by Radioactive Moat Press. He edits the literary journal Have U Seen My Whale.

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