Young Tambling resonates with Greenstreet’s relentless exploration of what it means to be human, to need to feel, to make art. Memory, in this book of “experimental memoir,” works something like the narrative tactics of a traditional ballad— “alternate leaping and lingering,” in one formulation. Greenstreet does not dabble in teleological platitudes: the lives crosscutting these poems are not singular but plural and sublime, full of sacrifice and empathy for the lost. In Young Tambling, a life’s meaning is born of its poet’s song, and a memory cannot reveal its truth until it finds its ballad.
“For her fine, home-made metaphysics, smartly deadpan cosmology, and redemptive, lyrical humanity, Greenstreet is strictly essential reading.” —Scott Wilkerson
“‘This story takes place everywhere,’ Greenstreet writes early on, and indeed her laconic meditations place her all over imagination’s map, in the land of tales and in a very contemporary (some would say avant-garde) scene. ‘People often ask me why my photographs are torn,’ she muses. ‘The purpose would be/ to learn. To represent a life.’ If thinking about the difficulty in representation—about what it means to write, about the space of a page—threatens to crowd out the life itself, that life comes back in, especially in the prose passages. Greenstreet places herself in the company of C. D. Wright and Anne Carson, whose fans might gravitate to her careful resilience.” —from the Publishers Weekly review
The wood belongs to the father.
I have the feeling that he set to work.
It took him years. What is experimental?
just cooking. Same as you.
I miss the sun. The sound
of their voices.
Which has been covered with a white cloth.
My shadow, his shadow, his
"You got a visitor, baby."
Copyright © 2013 by Kate Greenstreet
Read an interview with Kate Greenstreet on Under a Warm Green Linden—Christopher Nelson's Poetry Blog.
“Provocative and unsettling in its variety, this third collection from Greenstreet (case sensitive) nonetheless insists on the bare facts of sex and death, friendship and family, children’s wishes and adults’ regrets. Each of five segments contains sparse verse, fragmentary memoir-like prose, and facsimile images, from the poet’s handwriting to what seem to be her own paintings. Together these segments reflect on the death of a loved one, on childhood and adolescence in a Catholic family, on why we make art (‘You’ve got to have something to prove’), and on the traditional ballad of Tambling or Tam Lin, in which a pregnant human girl tries to rescue a captive prince from fairyland. ‘This story takes place everywhere,’ Greenstreet writes early on, and indeed her laconic meditations place her all over imagination’s map, in the land of tales and in a very contemporary (some would say avant-garde) scene. ‘People often ask me why my photographs are torn,’ she muses. ‘The purpose would be/ to learn. To represent a life.’ If thinking about the difficulty in representation—about what it means to write, about the space of a page—threatens to crowd out the life itself, that life comes back in, especially in the prose passages. Greenstreet places herself in the company of C. D. Wright and Anne Carson, whose fans might gravitate to her careful resilience.” —Publishers Weekly
“This is a book about people who struggle. But for all its moments of danger and catastrophe, there is a stunning and audacious story of a young girl finding her way through selfhood, to art and its many forms. Greenstreet threads this more lucid narrative throughout the collection to ground the reader and build a solid base from which we can view the speaker’s lifelong expedition to transcend gender roles, and better understand her identity, her tenacity and perhaps even her affectation. As gritty as the collection can sometimes be, it is these moments that flesh out the characters and build empathy and compassion with a beautifully composed speaker . . . . Above all, Young Tambling is a ballad, and perhaps in its fractured narrative it pays homage to more traditional notions of the form, particularly the 16th century ‘Tam Lin’ story it vaguely traces, and to which it certainly owes a fare. But this is a ballad of art, and the life of an artist. This is how life does not imitate, but feeds the art itself—through family, tragedy, sex, identity, and barefaced resolution.” —D.J. Dolack, Coldfront's Top 10 Books of 2013
“ . . . ‘I change the focus of my eyes,/ then I can see’ might be read as a poetics for this entire book that is about biography, autobiography, feminine sexuality, the stories and myths we either buy into or reject and who gets to make them—this book will not settle on one way of seeing/reading/narrating.” —Jill Magi, Pageviews/Innervisions
“Like the ballad she responds to, Greenstreet makes a melancholy music out of the unsaid. . . . The questions and images presented in the poems are so vividly connected to the country and time we are living in that it is impossible to put this book aside.” —Idra Novey in On the Seawall
"Through a profoundly affecting assemblage of poetry, prose, and visual art, Young Tambling expands beyond its rich source material and becomes a forceful meditation on selfhood, trauma, and memory." —Hilary Plum, Kenyon Review. Read the whole review here.
"You have to have listened to a lot of people to reproduce the cadence and diction of actual speech as well as Greenstreet does, but she never uses her apprehension of that speech to reduce or telegraph the person speaking. She does the very opposite in that she reminds us of how cryptic, associative and random speech, memory and even personhood can be." —Ray McDaniel, Constant Critic. Read the whole review here.
"Young Tambling is a deeply complex book, structured through lyrical threads of memoir, a tightly packed musical language and a myriad of narrative directions. Her collection has something of the accumulative, combining a kind of collage structure with an innate precision, and every line, every page, is an absolute delight." —rob mclennan's blog. Read the whole review here.
"What she tells is often fragmentary, misremembered or partially heard. This is more honest because the purpose is not beauty as we traditionally represent it but 'to learn. To represent a life.'"
—H.V. Cramond, NewPages. Read the whole review here.
“On the recto side of the title page is a tracing of Greenstreet’s left hand (I’m assuming). In lieu of signing the book, she traced my hand on the facing title page. The gesture is mimetic of what I see as Greenstreet’s primary concerns in the text: repetition/ doubling, tracing, and the ability/ inability of reifying events as memory. . . . Greenstreet is interested in the way experience can multiply seemingly indefinitely, [but] she is also interested in how these doubles are never identical to the original. There is always a kind of parallax shift in repetition. . . . Like Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, Young Tambling is less an autobiography of the author and more an ontological exploration of biography. . . . A good way to think of the text comes in a stanza from ‘Forbidden’: ‘A piece of thinking.//And this is where she hears herself’ (119). Greenstreet is interested in the act of memory, in memory as a process of making significance, a process of interpretation.” —Matt McBride in Vouched Books
"Her attention to self, family, and story speaks to the histories within ourselves. Read this book. It is an illumination of the traditional female all women writing in contemporary America struggle to define themselves against and within." —Sarah Boyer, Denver Quarterly
I pictured completing this book in Ireland, wearing a dark gray cardigan and maybe seeing the Atlantic from a small window facing west instead of east. But I’m glad today that I finished it here in my studio instead, where I could tape up all the pages on the long white wall. I look around the room, and I know I’m going to miss coming out here every morning. It’s by far the best studio I’ve ever had, and I don’t know when I’ll have another.
We call what we’re about to do “moving to Ireland,” though we’re not really planning to put down roots anywhere, not for a while. As soon as the house sells, we’ll fly to Ireland and see what we find. I’m an Irish citizen as well as a citizen of the U.S.—the dual state is one that suits me well in general (Gemini). I have a passport from a country in which I’ve never lived. That’s as good a way as any to describe how I’ve felt for as long as I can remember.
I still believe I might someday arrive at a place I recognize as home. I’m still looking. Max gave me the sweater I’d imagined and, although I could’ve worn it here in New Jersey, I haven’t. It’s attached to the dream of another life. I’ll take it with me.
When Young Tambling comes out in 2013, we plan to visit the States. There’ll be a tour schedule up at kickingwind. See you in Boston for AWP?
For the past five years or so, I’ve been pretty sure that Young Tambling would be the title of my next book, but I didn’t know why. I took the title from a song on the first Anne Briggs album, a ten-minute version of the Scottish border ballad more widely known as “Tam Lin,” a song about decision and transformation. I’ve had the record for decades, as the 12-inch circle worn into the extra-thin, Euro-style sleeve suggests. The cover image is a high-contrast, almost abstract brown-and-white photo of Anne and her dog walking in the wild. Sometimes, while I worked, I propped it up on my table. I taped a note to the speaker next to my computer: “It’s a book about biography.”
I was really lucky to have had my first two books designed by Janet Holmes. I love her book design and I saw my manuscripts become themselves in her hands. Writing Young Tambling though, I felt that in order to bring it in I’d need to design the book myself. I got InDesign to make the pages, but relied on constructing the book physically. That’s how I saw it, as constructing the book: printing and cutting and taping it up on the wall. Although I was thinking in two-page spreads, at some point I realized that I wasn’t actually making a book—I was making a big rectangular piece of temporary art. I’m not sure how this will all work out when the papers on the wall finally become a book for real! But the process does seem to fit the subject, or one of the subjects: how a person moves toward discovering her calling.
I don’t think Young Tambling has turned out to be a book about biography, exactly. I’d say it is an experimental memoir, about a sense of otherness that gradually reveals itself to be suited to doing something.