Out of Calaboose: New Poems
Karen Corinne Herceg
pp.91 Paper Demy
American poet Karen Corinne Herceg graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University with a B.A. in Literature & Writing and has graduate credits in editing, revision, and psychology. A recipient of N.Y. State grants, she has featured at major venues such as N.Y. Public Library, The Queens Museum, The Province town Playhouse, St. John’s University, Binghamton University, and many others with such renowned poets as Pulitzer Prize winners John Ashbery and Philip Schultz and poet William Packard, founder of The New York Quarterly. She has studied with David Ignatow, Philip Schultz, and writer/novelist Glenda Adams. Karen was co-founder and editor of The First East Coast Theatre & Publishing Company which published poetry by Anna Adams, Stuart Kaufman, Roger Steigmeier and a novel by Charles Powers.
Her first volume of poems is Inner Sanctions. She publishes poetry, prose, and essays in a variety of magazines and literary journals. Karen’s most recent publications include Antioch University’s Lunch Ticket Journal, The Avalon Literary Review, MockingHeart Review, Badlands, The Furious Gazelle, Reminisce—a publication of Readers Digest– and several publications in the U.K. Her work is read on various radio broadcasts, and she has been interviewed by The Epoch Times. Karen is currently working with Khalilah Ali, writing her memoirs as the former wife of the legendary Muhammad Ali.
Karen is a member of Poets & Writers, Writers Digest, the Academy of American Poets, PEN America, The Poetry Society of America and C.A.P.S. and is a featured poet on the New York poetry scene. Her website is www.karencorinneherceg.com and you can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Clutching her vision firmly in hand, Karen Corinne Herceg paints her inner world in such a vivid fashion that I was compelled to submerge myself in Out From Calaboose completely, and then not surface at all until I put down the last poem. What I wove through during the course of that reading was a feast: imagery fine enough that it startled; rhythms that wove from poem to poem, joining all their music together; and language so sleek that not one word had been left standing if it ought not to be. In this collection, Herceg brings us her life and all its many emotional truths, some ugly, some beautiful, but all revealed with restraint–so that by book’s end, we are left in wonder.
–Linda Gray Sexton, author of Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back To My Mother, Anne Sexton and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide
In Out from Calaboose, Karen Corinne Herceg traces what one might call a karmic trajectory from oppressive relationships in adult life back to a controlling or absent parent whose chiseled stone dates leave “impressions in her flesh.” And, after that, to a freeing.
—Roberta Gould in the Foreword
Herceg is a grand ‘maker’ in our Eastern tradition, an emergence of a fresh American voice that pulls out of her past a dark abyss of time, ‘herding children, objects and desires’ and brings along her story with a ‘feline intensity,’ very much like her cats, never looking hurt, ‘just indignant.’ Here are poems racing against the chill of time and treacherous tides that have washed away years of a young woman who stands now at the threshold of life with ‘her grocery bags’ and sings songs of the new, her new hope in ‘greens and fruits’ tethered to ‘a grassy firmament,’ birthing through ‘a placenta of debts’, cutting umbilical cords, dragging herself through the mire of inherited sins in a ‘maternal bloodbath,’ a place where her parents rest in sullen ‘drawers of steel.’ This is a remarkable work, a Virginia Woolf moment stretched into a book of poems or a Whitman rumination that refuses to come to an end, enamored as it is by life’s ongoing rush. Out from Calaboose affirms Herceg’s faith in a poet’s visionary status as she imagines her hand reaching toward, snapping through ‘embryonic clay’ and sculpting lives that could become whole…
–Yuyutsu Sharma, Himalayan Poet & author of Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems and A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems
Often it is a pronounced sense of wonder that makes poets like Karen Corinne Herceg. In her volume, she is Alice in her Wonderland, a curious child asking Why? Why? Why? Why are “our impatient lives [spent] in fluorescent-lit aisles”? Why can a mother only offer “leftover hippie love before the dusk of empty bottles”? Why is it that “time chimes clocks as if we were a gift”? And why do we [keep] “kicking [ourselves] back onto the cross, always just shy of redemption”? When a child asks Why she expects a truthful answer. So does Herceg. She wants to get to the bottom of just why we break out of our birth shells so passionately, with biting egg teeth, only to construct invisible shields, brick and mortar walls and personal calabooses that separate us from each other. What drives us? What forces impose themselves on us? The poems in Out From Calaboose compile a quest for truthful answers, one of which Herceg instinctively knows when she quotes Carl Sagan at the beginning of her poem “Alternatives” – for small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.
—Janet Hamill, American poet, author of Body of Water
In her powerful new volume, Out from Calaboose, Karen Herceg clearly demonstrates the loneliness and wonder of a “world scaled for living”(from “Tableau”). Herceg’s is a world fueled by travel, whether it is global wanderings or the travelings of a troubled spirit seeking rest or resolution: “Will anything stave off this thing/called salvation–/how if we pine and ponder enough/somehow we will deserve explanations” (from “After Me, The Poem”). Her verse can often be troubling, as when she describes the transparent boundaries separating creatures from nature (the immolation of birds as they hit pane glass, a sacrifice to hubris); culture from culture; people from each other; and humans from nature: “tree bark flakes/plants wither/glaciers melt and slide/and we watch it on monitors” (from “Corporate Menu”). Once she has her reader thus in thrall, the poet ups the ante in positing a world fueled by despairing travail and the imminence of death: “Can we only be saved in a loss?” (from “Epithalamium”). But then it becomes evident that the poet has a different world-view in mind when she juxtaposes such darkness with the idealism of her elegant and touching “Hudson History: Honoring Pete Seeger” in which she infers the redemptive power of hopefulness, of what the world might be, stemming from a new vision. Out from Calaboose is a marvelous, skillful, and evocative work.
—Dr. David B. Austell, Columbia University
Herceg’s poetry has honesty and a sane, healing quality. As a poet she fulfills one of the most crucial needs of our troubled age: Truth-seeking. There’s no pretense in Herceg’s approach.”
—Robert Milby, Poet & Hudson Valley, NY Poetry Series Host