USEREVIEW 107 (Capsule): rump + flank

Jade Wallace/ January 18, 2023/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Carol Harvey Steski
rump + flank (NeWest Press, 2021)
ISBN | 978-1-77439-028-3 | 96 pp | $19.95 CAD | BUY Here


Carol Harvey Steski’s poetry debut rump + flank is, as the title suggests, concerned with the body, with the essential physical substance of existence — but also with the bawdy, with the erotic, the indecent, the amusing. Divided into three sections, the collection is book-ended by ‘Various Cuts’ and ‘Scar,’ their names clearly evoking the corporeal. The bodies therein are various: the “evicted carcasses” of fish in ‘Red Tide,’ a human pelvis like “a rainforest / bloated with old growth,” mosquitoes who are “high powered wannabe moms.” These bodies are sites of profundity and humour in equal measure.

And then, curiously, between these two sections obviously meant for one another, there is the slight, strange interlude of the middle section called ‘Typefacing.’ Here, each poem acts as a character study of a common typeface: Times New Roman offers a “handshake on paper”; Comic Sans would “gnaw the head off a raw rubber chicken.” What to make of this brief suite? ‘Typefacing’ maintains the book’s overall vacillation between sincerity and levity, but more to the point, it too is about bodies — the way language is embodied on the page. (Of course! The clue’s right there in the section title: face.) ‘Typefacing’ makes you consider how, just like a person, a word’s appearance can alter its significance in the semiotics of daily life. And that’s what Rump + flank does, as a whole, over and over. It’s a sneaky book. The kind that tricks you into thinking by first making you laugh.

Recommended excerpt:

Try ‘mercurybomb’ (pp. 86– 87) for its sonic pleasures and keen associations: “my sister + I once cracked / a glass thermometer in half, watched / its bloodball burst + the quicksilver spill out the shaft / shimmering + / cleaving / into reproductions / of itself.”

Jade Wallace is the Reviews Editor for CAROUSEL. More:

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