Everything is Quiet

Dan Tarnowski

The first thing I did when I received ‘Everything is Quiet’ by Kendra Grant Malone was read the blurbs on the back. Here’s one from Blake Butler:

“Kendra Grant Malone contains several hundred people. Likewise, her words seem to protect several hundred other words beneath their giddy, precise calm. Here is a mother and a voyeur and a pervert and a magick-making child, somewhere between them all your brand new friend, teeming with such heat.”

The other blurbs were equally forceful, championing the sexy, pained, and dark nature of the poems. I got the feeling that ‘Everything is Quiet’ had some powerful content in store.

The book certainly opens with a bang with the poem, ‘A Kicked Pigeon’

i never told you
that week when i
came to stay
with you
in new york
and refused to
sleep with you
that one day
while you were
at work
i accidentally
kicked a pigeon
to death

The second poem ‘Insane Or Irate, Neither Of The Words Accurately Describe The Feeling That They Indicate,’ recounts how one feels when a movie ends. It’s a fitting entrance into Malone’s world.

the most mediocre
point of life
that gets
experienced
many times
yes, i think that moment
is what people mean
when they use the word
bourgeois

This poem reads like Malone’s mission statement: to shatter the ordinary. She seems to embrace odd situations as a way of realizing one’s true character. And as Kendra details squatting on all fours so that her disabled brother can eat hummus and potato salad off of her back, I can’t help but feel grateful that the poet would share such a thing with the reader.

I would describe the protagonist in these poems as uninhibited. The situations in the poems involve debauchery, violence, and drug use. Reading them is both discomforting and exhilarating.

The poet often fantasizes about violence, occasionally practicing it. In one poem, she imagines crushing the bones of a lover’s face and listening to them go “snap snap snap.” In another, she kicks a pigeon to death. Then, in another poem, she does a one-eighty and despairs over a flattened kitten found in the street.

I noticed some interesting quotes on the ‘thank yous’ page, like:

“to all the lovers from this year and last, thank you for the material, you assholes.”

Malone writes of many ex-lovers throughout the collection. Sometimes she has empathy for her partners, sometimes she spurns them, and sometimes, with no insight to be found in the aftermath of an affair, she can only stew in emptiness. Even during bitter moods, however, Malone is not afraid to express vulnerability. In one poem, she falls down in the shower and when her friend tries to help her up, she says, “no, it’s better this way.”

Malone is ever aware of the subtle dynamics of a relationship. Many of her phrases illuminate the deeper motives that conversations often mask, or attempt to:

i have this friend
who is dominating
in the strangest ways
he often disagrees with
my statements only to
repeat them back to me
replacing one word
with a synonym of that word

Often this understanding of people is genuinely tender, like in a poem about meeting a friend for drinks on her friend’s birthday:

there is really no way
for me to explain how
really very pretty and
totally enthralling you are
without coming on to you
which would be bad
because i think you would have been a wonderful
mother for me

Like Matthew Savoca’s long love poem with descriptive title, the cover of this book perfectly captures the feel of the writing. The image of butterflies landing on a despairing face suits the poet’s oscillation between tender and pained moods. However, if this writing was purely bi-polar, it would fall flat. Including 50 poems, this book contains a dynamic range of topics such as hanging out, relishing the beauty of life, and recognizing the significance of family.

I appreciate ‘Everything is Quiet’ for its ability to dive into realistic subject matter without sugarcoating anything. For me, the most affecting parts are about Kendra’s friendships and about her relationship with her brother. In the presence of allies, the poet is able to cut through the confusion of life and discover something more.

*

—’Everything is Quiet’ is available from Scrambler Books.

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