Shit makes me
The opening two lines from the first, and at that stage stil untitled, piece in her chapbook Spinning Cities (Wurm Press, 2011), which would eventually become the title poem in her first full collection Consent (Doire Press, 2013), announced Kimberly Campanello as a refreshingly unsettling presence in Ireland’s poetry landscape: an addition to a disparate movement away from the territorially lyrical and the comfortably inward that was already gathering momentum. Evident in Spinning Cities is a commitment to language that illuminates universal social issues without resorting to sentimentality. The poems jolt the reader into alertness and constantly question, while the openness and geographical span characterising the material is liberating.
All 12 poems in Spinning Cities were reprinted (with minor edits) in Consent, now bearing titles, epigraphs and explanatory notes. The collection narrows down the chapbook’s geographical focus by including several more poems implicating the Irish territory and experience. Born in Indiana, USA, Campanello regards Ireland and its traditions with the quizzical eye and multi-angled viewpoint afforded to the migrant. This collision of non-allegiances and the investigative stance it encourages reflects back onto the entirety of her material and advances an experimentation with process and form:
The American people are
What the American people want is
Americans, yes, Americans say
The American people tell me time and
(‘The American People’)
Acts of taking without consent from all but the most powerful of us fuel her work. The highly political nature of our times forms both the backdrop and the subject of her poems. Various entitlements and their impact on those without power, those who through accidents of birth find themselves under the sway of others in very literal ways, are fiercely interrogated. The ascribed status of women as second citizens – particularly in her adopted home of Ireland – is consistently put under the microscope. As an epigraph to ‘Birthing Stone’, Campanello reprints a paragraph from a report in The Irish Times summarising the events that led to Savita Halappanavar’s death in 2012, following University Hospital Galway’s refusal to grant her pregnancy a termination, despite being in the process of miscarriage, that eventually led to septicaemia, because ‘this is a Catholic country’. This case, and the moral and political implications of it on the role of the church and the status of women in Ireland, continues to provide a subject for many poets, female and male. Campanello’s conceptually sound compositional process – which uses the first reading in Roman Catholic masses worldwide from the actual day of Halappanavar’s death – welds it to the use of language as a tool for power and control, in a way that scrutinises it without stating the sentimentally obvious:
Let us pray
did Thomas not
While persisting with her concern with social justice, Campanello has increasingly been employing experimental writing strategies and exploring innovative outlets for her work. Forthcoming is the poetry object MOTHERBABYHOME, from Manchester-based imprint zimZalla, and, from New Dublin Press in partnership with the Distinctive Repetition Design Studio, the collaborative limited edition lithograph book Imagines – which has as subject the Sheela-na-gig stone carvings.
In her capacity as poetry editor of the first three issues of the online journal Colony she has contributed to a potent if perhaps still small-scale drive towards the release of the hold that the romantic and lyrical has in the perception of readers and audiences when it comes to poetry from Ireland. Further enabled by a partial removal to London and the pull of its highly-active innovative poetry scene, by entering into collaborations with other poets and artists – particularly musicians – and by an inherent restlessness of mind supported by a radical understanding of tradition, Campanello’s work is rapidly attaining the status of the influential.
Spinning Cities, Wurm Press, Dublin, 2011
Consent, Doire Press, Galway, 2013
MOTHERBABYHOME, Zimzalla, London, 2015
Two poems at New Dublin Press
Review of Consent by Dimitra Xidous
Video of Campanello reading at the Zimzalla Poetry Festival