Caki Wilkinson’s second book, The Wynona Stone Poems, is (like her first, Circles where the Head should be) written in form. Don’t let that deter you. In fact, forget I ever mentioned it in the first place, because for many of the poems you won’t even notice form at all. You’ll too focused on Wynona and her experiences to care much about form. (And I’m not trying to diss form here, honestly.)
Caki came to visit our seminar on forms last month, and she talked about the requirements and restraints of form. For her, these are not obstacles but, in fact, generative because they often disallow the first phrase or rhyme that comes to mind. They may even take the poem into a completely different direction than you’d expected when you started writing.
This book had just barely come out when Caki came to read for us at USM’s Center for Writers Reading Series, so in a way it had its premiere here in Mississippi. Caki also told us that originally, she had a different title in mind: Lady on a Unicycle, which would have made this (http://www.unsplendid.com/1-3/1-3_wilkinson_ladyunicycle_frames.htm) the title poem.
This is a spunky collection of poems that let us listen to Wynona and to the voices in her head / her headphones. Here’s a taste, from the poem “Almighty Vast Etcetera,” which also supplied the title for this post:
Envy’s good as gone / for good, and when in doubt I’ve found / examining my cellulite / at night while singing My Sharona / really puts a damper on / the schadenfreude. See? I’ve grown. / / Lost cause my ass, / Wynona Stone
Wynona is a character. We see her grow up with brothers, see her play basket ball, see her stand out like a sore thumb at a garden party. From her first time in a locker room to her job in period costume at a museum and her obsession with the local weatherman, we see it all, or rather, hear it all, in her very distinctive voice:
Look, I’m not saying that I didn’t sculpt a tiny model of the Weatherman in polymer clay. I absolutely did, and it was marvelous, no easy feat. You find me someone who can stripe a button-down and trefoil tie, forge cufflinks at matchbook scale, and I’ll hairlip the Pope. It’s true, too, I built a model of the station, but just the set, no camera or talking heads; he needed context, don’t we all. And — right again — I stuck the tiny Weatherman on the real Weatherman’s car, upright like a hood ornament, no strings attached; and sure, I had to stake out the station, which took a week and several lenses, some of them illegal.
The Wynona Stone Poems is an engaging, enjoyable character study that proves poetic form is neither dead nor dull. The book traces a larger narrative: the unspectacular but nonetheless peculiar life of Wynona who somehow feels, always, as she does at the garden party — “If you fill a space, / are you still extra?” — and finding her own way of dealing with it: “that’s her super power: she’ll demure / by shrinking what’s about to swallow her.” (“Slow Fade,” page 31).
p.s. also, read this interview with Caki over at memorious.