On Karyna McGlynn’s 50 Things Kate Bush Taught Me About the Multiverse

Brimming with pop culture references and an overt defiance and rebellion that oozes heavy mascara and black fishnet gloves, Karyna McGlynn’s 50 Things Kate Bush Taught Me About the Multiverse reads like a rediscovered well-loved vinyl record from the formative years of one’s past. It fuses a bold voice with experimental forms and structures. Overtly feminist, the verses it harbors blare like a punk rock album played at high volume. It’s brash, fresh, unexpected with twists that take readers into the darkest realms of not only their humor, but also their psyche.

The collection opens with “A Real Artist Makes Us Fall in Love with Ghosts.” The poem bears an epigraph from Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights”: “How could you leave me when I needed to possess you?” The epigraph establishes the poem’s tone and delicately accompanies the poem’s first line, a melodramatic sentiment that sweeps readers into a state reminiscent of The Castle of Otranto: “I want to haunt you into loving me.” Images of “bare feet with fresh dew from the moors” and “my song ripping through chimneys” chill readers but leave them with the best kind of haunting—a plea for more. Structurally, the poem taper from longer lines into shorter ones until the poem concludes with three simple statements: “I see you. / You can warm me. / Will you let me in.” The poem’s emotional complexity culminates in these lines because of the minimalist language and the use of a command where most would have posed a question.

“Witches Be Everywhere” defies tradition, which is, perhaps, only appropriate in a poem celebrating witches. Every line in the poem opens with an ampersand. The repetition of the ampersand creates the sensation of speed, and the brief line structures fuel this. The poem’s tone is celebratory, declaring “sometimes they’ll be wearing botanical caftans / & giant amber rings / & other beautiful shit.” It’s a defiant poem that breaks stereotypes by elevating the beauty of otherness. The witches “start Singing” and “might ask you to dance.” The speaker relies on humor to make the witches personable, stating “sometimes they’ll invite your ass over / & maybe make crepes.” The poem’s momentum ebbs because the lines rely less on the ampersand. Again, McGlynn relies on a tapering effect, weaning the lines from their ampersand usage and employing full and extended indentations as well as minimalist, conversational lines:

but if there’s no spark at the tip
of your wand, fair warning—
you may be tapped like overlong ash
through that beautiful burn
in the Big Flying Carpet!

The poem “Fun Factory” is an eyebrow-raising read, one full of playful, whimsical double entendre. The lines “Time packs my Play-Doh / back in the trunk of his Fun Factory” open the poem. It relies on careful assonance, consonance, and sound play to move the poem forward:

The bright clench of our first
apartment: old grease and rose spritz.
The tight asterisk of His Rule
exerting its squeeze.

From there, the poem grows psychologically and thematically dark. A Silence of the Lambs-like scene develops as an invisible giant with a fetish for flesh steals the flesh from the speaker’s body. The speaker vividly describes the invisible giant’s actions:

Later in the lair,
he would unroll my skin
in front of a floor-length mirror—
hold it up to his form
like a mail-order teddy—his eyes
looking straight through my
eyeholes & back into a better
version of himself.

The poem relies on a standard structure, but each stanza carries a different narrative, and the poem concludes with an emotional jolt perfectly captured by repetition and the traditional blocked stanza form:

The giant continued
to live in the drag of me. Nobody noticed.
Even when he told the truth about what he’d done.
Even when he wrote it down.

In the case of this poem, form follows subject matter, and the stanza structure reinforces the speaker’s entrapment and subjugation.

As the collection concludes, the moods and tone once again shift. Poems like “If Our Art Must Outlive Us” return to the philosophical, Romantic elements first seen in “A Real Artist Makes Us Fall in Love with Ghosts.” In “If Our Art Must Outlive Us” concludes the collection. Its blocked stanzas consist of three lines each. The speaker relies on blunt, uncapitalized statements such as “we must understand what that means / & stop entwining our genes— / to need to, but not to.” The poem is a single culmination of techniques such as ampersand usage and em dashes to create a thoughtful, meaningful conclusion to the entire collection. The sense of haunting and entrapment exhibited in other poems in the collection elegantly echoes: “I wonder how many demons / we’ve strummed up with / the careless grammar of Bad Fantasy.” However, McGlynn skillfully steers away from the negativity and darkness and into a brighter, much needed message of perseverance in an ever-upended world: “Hush. This doesn’t have to be / the opposite of happiness. Our rudder / is not married to this riverbed.”

Nicole Yurcaba (Ukrainian: Нікола Юрцаба) is a Ukrainian-American poet and essayist. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Whiskey Island, Raven Chronicles, Appalachian Heritage, North of Oxford, and many other online and print journals. Nicole holds an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University. Nicole teaches poetry workshops for Southern New Hampshire University and works as a career counselor for Blue Ridge Community College. She is a guest book reviewer for Sage Cigarettes, Tupelo Quarterly, Colorado Review, and The Southern Review of Books.