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Book Review: ‘Ready for the World’ by Becca Klaver

Ready for the World

By Becca Klaver -- Black Lawrence Press

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Somewhere around “Disney Princess Pageant,” I start to cry.

“I’m Snow White / We’re telling the truth…. On the Internet / This is the best party I’ve ever been to.”

If I were a gambler, I’d bet that the magic infused throughout Becca Klaver’s poetry collection, Ready for the World, released in February 2020, made it prescient. The first dozen-plus poems are odes to connectivity, to a digital world, to finding the spaces between bits and bytes where the self seeps through.

Poems like “Anagnorisis,” “Sharing Settings” and “Like Machine” are deep dives into a world that must have seemed simultaneously crucial and tangential to Klaver as they were written, but which now make up the whole of our existence, as pandemic continues to keep us all, by and large, physically apart.

“On the internet it is easy to love you,” she writes in “Anagnorisis.” “On the internet it is easy to love me / We let each other off the hook / We get to it when we can.”

Klaver, an Iowa City resident and Robert P. Dana Director of the Center for Literary Arts at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, pulled together writings from over the years, explorations of the fungible and the fantastic in the digital age. But regardless of when the pieces were written, their entry into the world in this form was nothing short of mystically aligned.

Ready for the World is peppered through with poems styled as spells, and it is in the piece “Spell for Going Out” that Klaver’s world shifts, and the similarities with our current time begin to shift into memory and universality. She draws the reader in, and then she sends us out again with this poem, as though her spell has worked. (Perhaps they all do.)

The book is dense with meaning, woven together by love and audacity and witchcraft. The subjects of the pieces hide themselves well within willfully sweeping words that tease out our commonalities.

This is a collection that you tattoo on yourself in phrases; if I were 16 again, at least a quarter of these lines would be scribbled on the rubber of my Converse. There are truths like gifts in here: “I traded it in & now they’re telling me / to try to get it back to get it back different,” Klaver writes in “Vanity Mirror,” and, in “Reproductive Logic”: “I’ll raise this solitude like a foundling.”

In “Spell for the Solstice,” she gives us, “by now you might think / you have all the light // in the world / and you do // the next feat is to stay graceful / while you give it up,” an elegant callback to the three poems “Kitty’s First Lunar Eclipse” and second and third. That notion of light is yet another theme woven through.

In “Wish Piece,” she promises, or invokes, “There are wishcatchers among us,” and “If you can’t find a wish you can make, find a wish you can grant.” It’s no accident that this poem comes directly after “Spell for the Health of a Heroine.” Klaver wants nothing less than for us all to own our heroism. The spells in Ready for the World are there for our use, yes, but she is also saying them over us as we read them.

The title, Ready for the World, is written in a font similar to that used for the film of Ready Player One. A generic digitized typeface to evoke an online world, perhaps, but even if not intentional, most definitely an echo of a story where the internet is more real than life — but also a very male world, that is colonized here by witchcraft punctuated by the laughter of teenage girls that Klaver weaponizes.

Each poem, too, takes control of the page it is placed on (producing this must have given the typesetter palpitations). Klaver takes full charge of the space she uses, playing and teasing and sometimes dancing. These pieces are set equally in physical and verbal space, building scaffolding in the mind to hang the weight of their meaning on.

Klaver has worked a magic here. It’s a subtle spell, accessible on the surface but with depths ripe for the plumbing. And it is as much textbook as it is spellbook, a tangible means of becoming. And now is the perfect time to read it, as we each begin to (re)learn how to get ready for the world.

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This article was originally published in Little Village issue 282.


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