A review of Beyond the Hill I Gather by Jeffrey Kingman

Reviewed by Beatriz Copello

Beyond the Hill I Gather
by Jeffrey Kingman
Finishing Line Press
$19.99, paper, ISBN: 978-1-64662-497-3, 734pp, May 2021

Beyond That Hill I Gather by Jeffrey Kingman is a fascinating poetry book which focused on the lives of mainly well-known women.  Kingman, from the United States of America is an award-winning poet with many titles to his name. This collection has won the 2018 Eyelands Book Award (Greece) and was a finalist in the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk Prize for poetry.

Kingsman’s poems are nostalgic without being sentimental, they are dense in meaning because they can be read from many different perspectives and evoke different meanings. Nearly all the poems are based on other publications, but the author does not appropriate from other writers, in the back pages of the book he meticulously writes from where he based his poetry.

The poet creates stories, interprets what he has read, he transforms this in a poetic narrative which is like a kaleidoscope, where strong images blend together to form a profound whole.

  Beyond That Hill I Gather is like a Rorschach Test where readers can interpret the poetry from their own psyche point of view. Is his poetry sometimes enigmatic?  Yes, it is, and also it is rich in musicality, imagination and imagery. Kingsman also creates characters or interpret and represents real ones, like in the following poem titled “The Way Back Home: Muriel Spark”. The author says: “… is a fictional poem that uses Curriculum Vitae by Muriel Spark as a starting point”

1.

why and where a tinsel coronet

chosen queen of poetry

so nice to have one’s hair stroked by a teacher

she submerges her telephone his words moisten

faraway languages spill from her unheld hand

alone she wanders south Africa

what a long walk and with a baby robin to feed

the earth chafes and the baby’s beak so sharp

a young woman out lost must test each thorn

she looks down through the parasol trees

wet swooshing incessant spray

leopards are harmless it’s the yellow oxalis

chases her home

2.

now it’s just front porch azaleas

the sun must have set and the school closed

even the walls evaporating

only voices left 

she must form the words dryly

yes her hair was nice

    the old teacher said

   Kingsman is very much aware of women’s issues, he takes the persona of women and writes about them with sensitivity. He pays particular attention to the interiority of the observable world, not merely its surface impressions.  In the following poem titled “Help Me Out Can You: Elizabeth Holloway Marston” well describes the many tasks that women carry out  – the observable and the interiority evident and guessed.  According to the author the poem is based on the lives of Elizabeth Holloway Marston, Olive Byrne and William Moulton Marston by way of The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore. 

9:00am appointment re the mammal article

editing staff meeting

lunch with Sanger

hold all calls except re baby

temperature

experiment with pins

have four hands

husband barks about noise

has no office

first her household

then the work

what is done with a baby

        or two

is done to reduce options

green crayon

  notes under the door

boy wants to be a mom

  kids are reporters

there aren’t many ways to diaper

  apparent

what is this woman doing

I must alert the reader because you will find amongst this poetry collection the “weird”, you also will be surprised, intrigued and leave you wondering about the obvert and the covert meaning of some of the poems, here is an example titled “Protest Song”:

Kathleen Hanna: You offered harm as a donation.

man: Have I offended?

KH: Ass slapper.

M: All this yelling.  You sick?

KH: In a Lyme hospital bed with jello.

m: The bedridden should act hopeful.

KH: Bitch needs money.

m:I give

I found that some of the poems brought childhood memories like a poem about a grandmother titled “Matriarch” and the following one titled “Garbo/Dietrich” which the poet says: “Is based on pertinent sections of The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood by Diana McLellan.  

How my sister and I made-believe we were

     boys playing rough

yes I burn ticks squash spiders

you must’ve compared notes

you spoke out loud everyone

    could hear

your trail of bees

I listen

               Your voice was the phonograph

my unpainted lips are the burgundy

    you expect yours to be

I fling up handfuls of primrose

    and you shrug

go ahead

shock them with your pants necktie

pretend we never met

clasp my unconscious body

support me firmly under my arm

    with your right hand

your left hand on my shoulder

    as I slip to the ground 

we should’ve rehearsed

Beyond That Hill I Gather contains a powerful collection of poems that covers an expansive range of experiences including a romantic and sexual encounter like in the poem titled “Calling Calling”:

She came naked to the bed, whispering

her name was Van Gogh.

I would’ve liked that, my beauty of her.

Mashed potatoes only came with garlic.

“Both of us!”

Only from thought I love I knew, remember.

Boode boode, we called out to each other

With a German e.

We looked slant into the miles,

Saw each other’s eyelashes.

The sunset was a place where a pool swimmer

Spread his arms, “So beautiful.”

It seems made up.

By midnight, peach cobbler

Stuck to our teeth,

we swam in a circle.

Smell the love

cum and gravy.

Kingsman is without doubt a good and creative poet, Beyond That Hill I Gather demonstrates it. No aspect of life is left unexamined in his piercing poems, this powerful collection covers an expansive range of women’s experiences. I enjoyed reading it, I am very sure this book will appeal to many. 

About the Reviewer: Dr Beatriz Copello is a former member of NSW Writers Centre Management Committee, she writes poetry, reviews, fiction and plays. The author’s poetry books are: Women Souls and Shadows, Meditations At the Edge of a Dream, Flowering Roots, Under the Gums Long Shade, and Lo Irrevocable del Halcon (In Spanish).  Beatriz’s poetry has been published in literary journals such as Southerly and Australian Women’s Book Review and in many feminist publications.  She has read her poetry at events organised by the Sydney Writers Festival, the NSW Writers Centre, the Multicultural Arts Alliance, Refugee Week Committee, Humboldt University (USA), Ubud (Bali) Writers Festival.  

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