A Review of Eden
Cop 26 has been and gone - and how are things looking in the Garden? What were the choices for Eve & Adam? What are our choices now? Eden, Robert Frede Kenter’s new chapbook, presents a vital glimpse into the work of an artist, photographer and poet who has been published and exhibited widely during the last 3 decades. In my reviewer copy I only see or perceive partially. This is ok, because i. we all know that art is best seen up close (or standing back) in a gallery anyway, and ii. the selection here, which is engaging and challenging for sure, is a glimpse through the hedge, or broken wall, of the garden. As Kenter writes in his Acknowledgements, ‘many of these works also have colour versions and other iterations’. This Eden makes you want to see them all. To wander through this artist’s studio and archives. The list of Contents is poetic. This excerpt gives a tang; Slow Jam # 2 Notation Two Barflies at a Bar, Next Day In the opening piece, Poem for an Imaginary Landscape, Kenter sets the scene. We hear of ‘exhibition dream flowers.......scattering landfill sites’ and ‘a ventriloquism of dots, jagged leaves’. This is skillful and vivid writing. Like Kenter’s artworks it leaves wide spaces for our own imaginings to run riot in cracks and corners. Next comes Angry Eden. Perhaps God / Satan in profile. Eve & Adam behind, eyes amok, the outlines of their faces curled as question marks. One of my favourite works is Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. 2 sidewalk signs announce THE HERE AND THE NOW ARRIVED A series of mathematical numbers appear in the perhaps apocalyptic margin. If we can only work out this equation. Just maybe. We might know what to do. In Raw: Fetish I see anonymous block buildings and collage dislocation. Maybe I am trying to drive out of town to escape some contemporary doom? Or, is it just the Friday afternoon rush? How do I feel when I see these 2 road signs? RAW NORTH ON FETISH Some of the works use the techniques of erasure poetry. Some words are harder to make out. Some are wilfully defaced or obscured. Like a Banksy shredding itself, in a way. Kenter’s techniques also remind us that some of these words are found text. Found, random, powerful, poetic. And, as in gardening and poetry and art, the question - what to leave in and what to leave out? Smudge is one of these erasure works. A written passage entitled Mathematics Educators is partly obscured by abstract swirling marks, and collaged part-words, part-sentences. It is impossible to read the main written passage. This resonates with me as I could never do the math anyway.
I am now looking at The Tree.
I cannot tell what the medium is. I have a black and white image on a computer screen. Nevertheless, after some of the other, harder, images in Eden I can actually feel the almost iconic furred, woody, reassurance of putting my palms on the vast
bark of a redwood tree. This is for well being. This is what we Need to Save. And need is an anagram of eden.
As Joni sang ‘ we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden ’.
And then what do we do?
Who gets to go on the rocket ship up to space? What does our earthly paradise look like from up there? Will they do anything differently, more responsibly, more equitably, when they come back down to earth? And how long will they keep that up for?
If poets and artists had been in Power since Nixon, would the world be in a better state? Hard to think it would be worse, anyway.
Robert Frede Kenter’s work smudges and illuminates the air here on planet Dollarama. It is informed by his openness to collaboration and community, and his experiences of travelling and living abroad. Kenter is a survivor, and this is good. Eden leaves us wanting more.
On a road trip with Kerouac, or with Cormack McCarthy. Even on your daily commute. You might want this chapbook in your backpack.
O brave new Eden that has such work in it.
Paradise Lost. Paradise Regained? Eden Reviewed.
Bio for reviewer Ivor Daniel:
Ivor worked as a street-based youth worker, and then as a team manager in the youth service. He lives in Gloucestershire, England, where he now does sessional English tutoring.
His poems have appeared in A Spray of Hope (an anthology of pandemic poetry published by Liverpool University) wildfire words (the ezine of Cheltenham Poetry Festival), Steel Jackdaw Magazine, Writeresque Magazine, iamb ~ wave seven, and Fevers of the Mind