On Aaron Kunin’s Cold Genius (Fence Books, 2014)
My review-essay, “Coldness, Concept, & Convention: On Aaron Kunin’s ‘Cold Genius,’” was published today in Hyperallergic Weekend. Cold Genius is inspired by the figure from King Arthur, a late seventeenth-century opera written by Henry Purcell and John Dryden. The Cold Genius’ signature song was memorably performed by New Wave icon Klaus Nomi (pictured above) in 1982.
Kunin’s latest poetry book is a difficult pleasure in the most positive meaning of that phrase. Here’s my last paragraph:
Kunin’s frost-pieces might not be able to fully or fluently “communicate,” but they are not products, as Ruskin says, of “heartless pains”: they, in fact, reveal the heart’s extreme vulnerability (Kunin says, “Gelid / ‘The’ heart, wrapped ‘in’ ‘a’ plastic sheet / Acknowledges / ‘The’ power ‘and’ extent ‘of love’”), its capacity to endure great pain. The poems of Cold Genius demonstrate the possibility of a formula, however unlikely, in which concept and affect, difficulty and emotion, and tradition and novelty can all coincide.