Kit Robinson
The Crave
Berkeley, CA: Atelos, 2002

I’ve often thought of Kit Robinson as a sort of "fifth-column" poet, using his position in the "information technology industry" to steal corporate phrases and defuse them poetically before they have a chance to make their slimy way into general discourse. Such frontline work is admittedly dangerous, but in Robinson's newest collection, The Crave, his linguistic precision, along with an astringent thread of melancholic dislocation, give his acquisitions sharp new life.
"My verse has an open architecure/many meanings can plug into it," Robinson says in the title poem, which in turn takes its title from a 1916 work by Jelly Roll Morton. The "open architecture" in The Crave are three-line stanzas, which, rather like Clark Coolidge’s crystal, reflect many different existences from seemingly similar formations. Interestingly, and close to strangely, Robinson has included a sort of afterword, which almost explains the poems. In this afterword, Robinson says the poems "skirt the fringes" of "the spaces between things." While such ephemeral explanation may capture the intent of the poems, it does not describe the poems themselves, whose craft and humor keep them from such intangibility. For instance, from "The Outcome":

When I was a musican’s musician
I used to be a poet’s poet
then a black box

Turned off the alarm system
according to the script
at this time the outcome

Is unknown
and I
am a professor of indeterminancy

In collaboration
with my trusted business partners
the birds

While Robinson is associated with the Language School, and his concerns with the intentions behind language are certainly in line with that, surprisingly enough, these poems echo at times the sly craft of the New York School, particularly Ron Padgett, whom Robinson even quotes in "The Pencil and the Pen," which is in itself a most Padgettian poem.

It is good to write with a pencil
because you can go back
and change certain words

And still keep
the notebook looking
nice and clean

For example I
just went back
and changed "in" to "with a"

Unfortunately I
am writing this
with a pen

Such surprise keeps fresh what could turn into predictable. Each poem, in Robinson’s revealed "dislocations," spins all received information into something gentler and more searching than expected. In dislocation and in common opposition to the corporate powers-that-be, once-guarded reflections turn into open-ended explorations.

-- Marcella Durand