Escape of Light
Finishing Line Press, 2020
It’s often said that truth is the final destination of the human spirit. Such is the vision that attends Deborah Kahan Kolb’s powerfully sentient book, Escape of Light. She is a truth-teller, granting us the grace of permission to be birthed into a world of both the hope and the wrath of humanity— to air the soil of anguish, shame, and rage, while salvaging what is pardonable. Spawned from the opening poem "Emerging, Art of", there is an arresting voice of acceptance, a “leave-taking” from the binding coils of memory’s inheritance of tragedy. Whether of a son’s burial, a Great Grandfather’s sufferance at Auschwitz, or of Charlottesville’s weeping bloody soil, a self-enlightened healing graces her poems to protect us from disappearing into the amnesia of history, the unthinkable allowing of things. She chooses, instead, to embrace the steady march of metamorphosis, through the personal and the political, to emerge from the impotence of silence to restore the music of memory through poetry and song. Her poems examine what is humane in us, the trapped light that escapes, to affirm Stephen Hawking’s credo, “things can get out of a black hole.” Escape of Light is evocatively alive in its testament to truth as core to the survival of the human spirit.
–James Ragan, author of The Hunger Wall and Too Long a Solitude
Deborah Kahan Kolb’s Escape of Light is about the establishment of self, about becoming. Kolb explores what it means to pass from one existence into another, and she does this with startling and precise imagery. We are reminded of the responsibilities of personhood as we shepherd daughters forward into adulthood and what happens when we fail them in the most profound ways. Moreover, Kolb likes to remind us of the ways that history prefigures the present, whether that history is personal or political. Again, it’s that movement toward becoming, which—as she demonstrates with her prescient vision—is a complicated and unfinishable process.
–Sonia Greenfield, author of Letdown
Deborah Kahan Kolb offers a poetry of the body, of birth and birthing, of a girl becoming a woman but also of an elderly Holocaust survivor finally beginning his life by removing the concentration camp tattoo from his forearm. Escape of Light twines together the intimately private and the searingly public in carefully crafted and formally inventive poems that are not easily forgotten.
–John Biguenet, author of The Torturer’s Apprentice and Oyster
Deborah Kahan Kolb’s Escape of Light proves that we are the light that is birthed into the darkness of history. Steeped in Jewish history, each poem is a burst, is a detailing of “the burden of birth,” whether that birth be: the removal of a compulsory tattoo, becoming a matriarch, entering the afterlife, entering a new age, or crystallizing into a writer. In this collection, Kolb is our “butterfly laureate,” our “Hallelujah,” our brave “woman in the ring.” I can’t wait to see what she writes next!
–Jennifer Jean, author of The Fool
Phoenix from the ashes, butterfly from the chrysalis, and, too, the Holocaust survivor growing free from his tattoo—all are represented here and compose the thrilling brightness and heft of Kolb’s full-on rebirth through these determined and accomplished poems. At times caustic, at times meditative, both self-critical and authoritatively self-affirming, both personal and political, this collection invites us into the very act of creation complete with its slammed doors and ecstatic song. It’s a run-out-in-the-street kind of book—run out, choose life, “Go ungently,” as Kolb’s poems help us do.
Windows and a Looking Glass
Finishing Line Press, 2017
Deborah Kahan Kolb’s rich and poignant Windows and a Looking Glass opens with “The House that Made Me,” a kind of love song to her mother, “soaking in the smells and the safety of her.” But Windows is even more; in one of Kolb’s bravest and most haunting poems, “Girl’s Song,” a young woman ends her life in the context of the strict rules she must follow dictated by religious observance. “When I fall no one will notice my scandalous ankles/ when my long navy skirt flips up around my waist/ as I drop twenty stories down to/ where Hashem will surely meet me.” What’s so satisfying about Kolb’s collection, is that it takes us full circle. We meet desire fulfilled in sex, “blood, mine and yours awash with wine, ” and in parenthood, “to listen for the mewling that always came right before / you needed me,” and in personhood, “Tell me again how I am/ in the red gold glow of early light.”
-Sarah Stern, author of But Today Is Different and Another Word For Love
Deborah Kahan Kolb’s Windows and a Looking Glass introduces a poet who can move us with a perfectly-chosen word or image or with a line that, in a succinct and surprising way, pulls all the threads and colors of a poem together. Many of the pieces in this first collection will touch you in unexpected ways, as a passing stranger’s voice overheard through a window sometimes does. Whatever you do, don’t miss “Eldest Daughter,” “After Auschwitz, “Honeymoon Eyes,” or “Monthling”. Then find your own favorites.
-Charles Adès Fishman, editor of Blood to Remember: American Poetry on the Holocaust (Time Being Books, 2007) and Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression and Empowerment of Women (Kasva Press, 2016)
I love the exuberance of the poems in Deborah Kahan Kolb’s debut collection, Windows and a Looking Glass, the way they embrace life in all its startling complexity. And this book of linked poems about Kolb’s personal experience will have universal appeal, for, as the speaker says in the lovely poem, “Zhou Ling,” “We are more alike than people imagine.”
-Elizabeth J. Coleman, author of Proof and The Fifth Generation