Koo Press Poetry, 2007 - £4.00
In Goose Tales and Other Flights, Kathleen Kenny explores the edges of myth, her delicate poems coaxing us to reconsider the metaphor of goose, its flight, and its eggs—golden or not. It took me quite a few readings to finally find what I thought was the heartbeat of the poems, seemingly distant but present. To me, it seems the poems need an awareness of relevant mythologies to function effectively. Writing of and through metamorphosis, Kenny’s poems gently challenge the myths of transformation and the reality of theft, possession, and imprisonment.
In ‘Feathers’, the speaker of the poem is initially unaware of myth, “innocent of geese” and of the golden egg, but then a feather worries its way from a stitched pillow, signaling “the questions to follow.
And questions do follow—questions without answers that seed our deepest and most persistent myths. Many myths of origin, for example, involve eggs laid by geese or other water birds, and often those eggs (and geese) are golden. Hindu scriptures tell us of Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb-egg, spirit in matter, from which all life arose. The Finnish Kalevala relates the tale of the “Goldeneye” goose who laid an egg on the lap of the goddess of air, and when egg broke, its fragments form both world and sky. Magical eggs feature, too, in both Roman and Egyptian mythology.
“Within my beak”, Kenny writes in ‘Goose Warrior’,
I squeeze the head of Man
. . .
He is identifying mountains,
Claiming dominion, changing the landscape
. . .
I have his feet sticking out.
See, I have his puny arms.
He has my secrets,
my stolen feathers
The goose that lays the golden egg, the golden goose that freely offers its precious feather, is killed. The golden egg (or feather) has come to represent physical rather than spiritual wealth, and the murderous theft is interpreted as destructive (and avoidable) greed. We no longer readily understand that the golden egg, the golden feather is neither commodity nor currency but instead the gold of light that is the life of (wo)men, a way to breathe, a means to fly.
Kathleen Kenny leads us gently there. Her challenge of conventional myth is firm, but never stubborn nor strident. No hard statements are made; there are no definitive resolutions. Not all poems are crystalline; some remain as inscrutable as must any myth that is told and translated past its time of immediacy, but I honor her willingness to engage with metaphors that take us across borders of our own devising. I don’t expect answers.
What the Young Reader has to say about Goose Tales:
The cover is great. The texture is soft and slightly fluffy, a bit like goose down. The illustration of two geese is cool and it made me feel that I needed to read it.
I liked the first poem, but after that I began to feel that they got a bit repetitive. There are, after all, only a limited amount of goose metaphors. Feathers, flying, pillows and V-shapes crop up a lot in this collection. I liked some of the poems and found some good lines in the ones I wasn’t keen on. Some poems seemed like clever groups of words which missed the idea or emotion that would have made them poems. The poem I liked best wasn’t a goose poem at all. It put across a simple idea effectively and entertainingly, using a single clear image. Here it is:
All He Deserves
She sees his face
spinning in the washer:
warm and gentle and frothy,
bubbles from his ears and nose,
his mouth foaming.
His head going round like a black sun.
Emptying and refilling;
the cycle of his immaculate head.
Gurgling like a small child.
All bum fluff and big eyes.