Circus-Apprentice is perhaps at its best when responding to, or writing in terms of, light. She seems to me best as a poet of surfaces (which is not the same as being superficial) - but what surfaces they are, dazzling and radiant, seen with a painter's eye and articulated in language full of passion and painterly texture:
Even if surfaces are Gallagher's best starting point, there's nothing superficial- as suggested above- about the way she explores their implications. This is particularly true of the sequence of eleven poems 'After Kandinsky' which closes the volume. The work of Kandinsky - the painter who said in his Reminiscences that he sought in spite of its apparent impossibility to capture on the canvas a 'colour chorus' (as I called it) which, bursting out of nature, forced itself into my very soul - proves an ideal jumping-off point for Gallagher. The poems are meditations on the specific paintings, all from the 1920s (it is worth looking them up and having them to hand when reading Gallagher's poems) which lead the poet into fascinating territories, mental landscapes as much hersas Kandinsky's, in which small and large, united by shape and colour, coexist. Here, for example, is 'Blue Painting (1924)':
Let the eye investigate blue
and all the arrows focus gravity.
Across the spectrum - cerulean,
Prussian, cobalt -
a patchwork of hues
the Blue Planet,
how it takes you into backdrops
for a rose, a hyacinth,
the single flowers
multiplies under a clean sky.
This is Katherine Gallagher's fourth full-length collection. If you aren't yet acquainted with her work, this would be a good place to start.