“She Covers Her” by Kevin McLellan
Kevin McLellan is the author of Tributary (Barrow Street) and the chapbook Round Trip (Seven Kitchens), a collaborative series with numerous women poets. The chapbook Shoes on a Wire (Split Oak Press) and the book arts project [box] (Small Po[r]tions) are both forthcoming. He won the 2015 Third Coast Poetry Prize, and his poems have appeared in journals including: American Letters & Commentary, Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, december, Kenyon Review Online, Salt Hill, West Branch, Western Humanities Review, Witness, and several others. Kevin lives in Cambridge, M.A. (https://kevinmc66.wordpress.com/)
Other than a single question mark, the punctuation in this poem is limited to forward slashes. The effect is to even out the lengths of the pauses between phrases, so that sentences run together just a little bit, kind of like the murky relationship between the speaker and “her.” At first the speaker is “taking inventory” of all the stuff that should be “purged,” but by poem’s end is no longer so judgmental; instead, in order to make up for an insensitive comment, the speaker becomes willingly complicit in the purchase of more stuff. Like most relationships / it’s complicated.
Things covered with more things… Breaking this poem into boxes and letting them start to tumble wis an obvious choice. The typeface needs to be dense, to give each box an extreme visual weight, and Haettenschweiler delivers. Short ascenders and descenders compound the effect, so the eye registers the outline of each box more readily than the white space between lines. For the title, an even heavier typeface would capsize the whole design. Orator’s vertical strokes are of similar strength to Haettenschweiler, but they leave a much lighter impression. They’re also easier to read, and so draw the eye first, before the reader wades into the poem’s difficulties.