A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood:
Kate Angus' So Late to the Party | Dorothy Chan
Negative Capability Press, 2016 (69 pages)
Kate Angus writes with such an awareness and consciousness of today's writers' world. In her debut collection, So Late to the Party, she mixes the everyday conversational and Generation Y with inspiration from literature, along with retorts toward the contemporary "life of the writer." This is what makes Angus' collection both resonant and relevant. Her opening poem is aptly titled, "Painters," and already, she brings Frank O'Hara into the equation: "and remembering the party,/a few days back when Dave said/he used to be a painter. Christine/asked why he stopped and he recited/O'Hara's "Why I Am Not A Painter/and we laughed. Good." This opening
Angus takes this conversation and self-awareness into a broader scale. For instance, in "Last Call," Angus' speaker says,
That there's not a finite amount
of love and happiness here, and the world isn't really a cruel restaurant
where some of us are eternally emptying out pockets so lint falls out
like snow but we still can't seem to buy what we need,
while, at the next table, our friends
gorge on chilled oysters and swill rivers of champagne.
This theme continues on an ecological level in "Complicity."
Also, on a side note, Angus' titles are effective because they are terse when necessary (in the case of "Complicity," "No Wonder," and "Intimacy") and long-winded when needed (in the case of "In the Award-Winning Movies in my Head, We are Infinitely Better Looking and Everything Makes Sense" and "If My Life Were a Radio, Lately I Would Prefer Another Station"). Back to "Complicity," Angus' speaker brings up guilt when looking at her leftover sausage pizza, and she compares that guilt to the feeling of looking at a fish dinner "resting/on a glazed blue plate garnished/with a slice of lemon/sickle-shaped and pale yellow/as the moon. The thing still swimming/in olive oil and herbs." Angus animates this guilt beautifully. It is not only a guilt that's transferred into a new image, but it also becomes an image that moves and "swims."
"Sonnet" is another lovely piece. This is the only sonnet in Angus' collection, and it seems to be a summation of everything in the book, presented in the most perfect form. The sonnet is a box filled with tension and release, and Angus fills her box with a message on actual literature: "If you live on the other side of the country,/we might as well inhabit pages—characters/who walk through chapters, not people/typing messages to each other in rooms." But then this critique delves into the erotic with images of the red and white of hotel rooms. Angus adds sexiness to this sonnet, and we definitely want our writing to exude that passion.
Yet, Angus ends her collection on a note of tenderness. In "I Do Not Want to Lose Anybody," she reminisces about kindergarten, high school, and college, and ends with "I will eat olives: each one a world plucked from the brine." We can picture her speaker all alone, finding amusement in the ordinary—finding the world in the ordinary. This is the power of Angus' collection, making the reader not want to be late to her party.