“The Surprise We Expect: A Review of Jonas Zdanys’ The Kingfisher’s Reign
(Chicago: Virtual Artists Collective, 2012, 112 pages, paper)
The Kingfisher’s Reign defies categorization, resists simple analysis. Indeed it soars above the critic’s pulse. For days I have lived with this volume, returning to it over and over again, and each time I enter the world anew. The lines are lyrical, to be sure. Wonderfully lyrical. Tragedy seeps between the lines, of course, but there is something higher represented in this collection – a harmony of bliss and regret, a celebration of anticipation with lament.
These eighty prose poems bend the readers’ knees to submission. They remind us of how little we control of what we think we know. They invite us to pretend we master language when, all the while, language is forming us, reducing us to echoes, mimicry mistaken for deity. Set on an eternal stage that always seems new, Zdanys’ lines wrap around the pages of reality as if we are mere conduit – the coursing energy, inside, defining our singular existence.
Forgive my obtuseness. The poems are accessible (if I must use that word). The images are familiar. The rhythm, the repetition, the resonance – all form a tantalizing dance between reader and page. There is nothing hard about these poems at all, but that familiar accessibility is exactly what makes them so hauntingly refreshing. We’ve been down this road before, readers must surely surmise, but oh how the path continuously turns and every turn offers novel epiphanies, renders childlike discovery. For a child alone in a field coming upon death for the first time, all subsequent death reflects that first shudder, that original displacement of innocence. Every recurring return to the field promises the surprise we expect.
The Kingfisher’s Reign moves me to something like worship. The prayer I feel is the prayer I am reluctant to breathe. The praise I am hesitant to voice, constituted by the poet’s craft, leaves me powerless before the elegant themes of Everyman and the life he claims. I invite you to read with me, to search, to worship. I cannot imagine not sorting through these pages for years to come.
Reviewed by Ken Hada