Dunk Tank

by Kayla Czaga

Dunk Tank is a collection of poetry of the sort I quite enjoy, in form, specifically. Though Czaga writes free verse, she maintains a structure through the repetition of similar sounds rather than tight rhymes, and this is used to great effect within her work in at least a few ways, all related to the way this influences the rhythm and flow. For one, the author is able to create cohesive threads throughout poems, either by continually repeating one sound throughout at various intervals or by only using it periodically to suggest a related nature between lines, such as within the poems “Sleeping is the Only Love” or “Eel.” A reader’s attention can also be directed through a sudden build-up of the sound, as in “Fun and Games,” or through a sudden divergence from a sound that had otherwise been repeating throughout the piece, as in “Michelle on Instagram.” And stepping away from tight rhymes in this way keeps this on more of a subconscious level––easily felt but difficult to see. But even if you can’t see it, when it’s done well, it sure resonates. (Look to the sixth verse of Czaga’s poem “Girl Like” for an example of multiple sounds overlapping and interweaving in spectacular fashion.)

And, of course, the structure is only a part of the collection, albeit one I apparently want to talk and talk about. The general content deals with a loss of innocence, about loneliness and emptiness, and about the desperate yearning to fill the hole inside, all evoking a sense of being catapulted into adulthood too soon. Feeling lost; feeling unprepared. And the author is always inventive in her metaphors and images that bring these concepts to life, although this occasionally eroded my enjoyment at least a little. The why was perhaps discovered when I compared a Dunk Tank poem I disliked, “Good Without the Guacamole,” with a Charles Bukowski poem I like quite a bit that it reminded me of, “numb your ass and your brain and your heart––” from Love is a Dog From Hell. (Both poems use the mundane as a kind of backdrop for some sort of emotional or psychological distress; otherwise, they’re quite dissimilar.) Coming across the Bukowski poem recently was probably the key to understanding this somewhat elusive idea, because I admire his writing for its natural honesty. And it’s on display here, the way he presents his problem without ceremony, he moves into the seemingly unrelated description of a television show, and then brings it back to the problem elegantly. The trouble with Czaga’s, conversely, is this notion of presenting a concept and immediately, overtly forcing meaning onto it. Doing so not only creates a choppy flow, but it also cultivates a feeling of insincerity.

Keep in mind that this is the exception more than the rule. So much within Dunk Tank is smart and skilfully written. It’s heartfelt, though, honestly, quite sad.