Ventriloquy brings together four poem sequences that throw the author's voice in different directions. "Garden of Tongues, Garden of Eyes" sings, in formally similar poems, of many flowers through imagined myth and stories. The poems in "Divination," also formally similar, consider whether it's possible to divine characters through action. A third sequence of formally loose poems treats human desire, foible, and obsession through imagined saints--the saint of big data, the oil saint, the citizen saint, the sorry saint, and others. A final sequence of short prose poems depicts still life paintings and how they point away from the stilled objects on display out to a beautiful and imperfect world. Sometimes lyrical, sometimes surreal, Ventriloquy explores human longing for control, wonder, and meaning.
What an intense medley of flowers, divinations, saints, and still lifes! Kildegaard submits to her themes in Ventriloquy with deep devotion and discipline. One feels like a privileged guest in reading these poems, overhearing Kildegaard ovehearing herself as she makes new with both elegant and wild redefinitions of her conventional subjects. Like an anchorite, Kildegaard reconsiders the old world with imaginative studies that bear new revelations. How vividly, candidly, and economically she gives human voice to her array of tropes, while capturing their literal essence at the same time.
—Chard deNiord, Poet Laureate of Vermont
Like any ventriloquist, Athena Kildegaard delivers the truth in layers as she throws her voice to speak through others, saying things she might not be able to say as herself. She explores our attempts to see, know, and control our worlds as she speaks through flowers and imagined saints, of still-life paintings and of ways to divine the future. Although her speakers often have difficulty speaking to those with whom they should be intimate — their throats ‘tickle with failure’; they ‘keep mum about what [they’ve] seen’ — they will speak to us. The result is a spellbinding set of poems that are haunting, spare, and strange. This book is ‘a drawer meant / to hold the world together.’ It contains the entire confounding universe. I could not look away.
—Katrina Vandenberg, author of An Alphabet Not Unlike the World and Atlas