"McGlynn’s first book, the fabulous (and fabulously titled) “I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl,” proved that she belonged squarely in the Gurlesque, a loose group of female poets who — combining the burlesque and the grotesque — approach their femininity in a campy way, skewering gender stereotypes. Now, in her glittery, screwball second collection, McGlynn continues to play with the dark comedy afforded by this girly kitsch. “So you want to know where I live?” the title poem asks. “Come here, love. We’ll circle the walls / with my big rococo key & look for a way in.” The book is divided architecturally — bedroom, library, parlor, wet bar, bath and basement — for a wry and disquieting tour of American banality and excess."
“So you want to know where I live?” McGlynn beckons in her eponymous opener.
“Come here, love.” Her second collection delivers, luring readers into a world
bawdy yet bright, macabre yet full of magic... McGlynn is a seasoned performance poet, and these poems, whip-smart, crackling with candor, and pulsing with effervescent language and plush imagery, demand to be read aloud. In “The New Sincerity,” McGlynn conjures an “earnest anthem” to be “played on repeat all night long.” Get out your “two-tone shoes” and prepare to dance. This is that anthem.
-from Briana Shemroske's review of Hothouse for Booklist
I am right at home, but I am not comfortable, let me make that perfectly clear. Hothouse surrounds the reader with familiar imagery, but like the familiarity of the concrete world, some of the shit we see is so damn scary. I settle in because the speaker invites me to be, expects me be, asks me to sit down across the kitchen table with her and have a drink about it. Come on girl, she says, real talk... God bless the South and the fierce, funny women it produces. McGlynn's wit is quick, it sears. I read these burns and think to myself, welcome to the thunderdome of womanhood, motherfuckers.
It’s easy to throw around a word like “fierce” when discussing the unapologetic brashness of some up-and-coming female poets, but it’s something else entirely that keeps me returning to the surreal and sexy images that comprise Karyna McGlynn’s growing oeuvre. Her first full collection I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, while drawing on themes of nostalgia and revenge, does so in a way that blows apart formal constructions of memories as well as poetry, seemingly at the level of the word. With fractal-like agility, her poems convey both strength and
delicateness, like snowflakes building into a glacier. When I first encountered her work, McGlynn’s poems terrified me with their raw beauty, but now I read her work with an excitement that comes with watching a confident poet maturing into her voice.
-from Anna Saiken's review of The 9-Day Queen Gets Lost on Her Way to the Execution for Pleiades Book Review
Karyna McGlynn’s Hothouse thrusts readers into a lush world where readers are both voyeur and lover. The opening, eponymous poem signals what is to come in subsequent rooms. “So you want to know where I live?”, the speaker asks, then softens her harsh question by inviting the reader to “Come here, love.” This flirtation with watching and being watched, entering a space sometimes bidden and sometimes not, permeates the collection. “You say I should become the voyeur,” the speaker states, as if we commanded it. But the speaker wants to be seen: “I want to write with the door open / but what to do about it?” Throughout the collection, however, it’s the reader who becomes the voyeur. “[Y]ou [are] so rare,” the speaker tells us, “both reader & lover fused at the stem.
Karyna McGlynn’s Hothouse is a breathtaking display of human growth, specifically of becoming a woman: “crawling across the bed…for my fourteen-year-old self reeking of controlled heartbreak”. McGlynn's collection blooms wit and candor. Her artful selection of language surpasses expectations and provides her work versatility. Lifelong influences and experiences, including Marvel superheroes, John Keats, and sexual empowerment, are packed into her wonderful metaphors. McGlynn underscores what we know of loneliness, heartache, and maturing.
The title of Karyna McGlynn’s second book of poems sets the reader up for the criminal impulses and the trips to the recent past that permeate the book. McGlynn’s poems are scenes of violence and crime, each presented through a different perspective or voice. Although not generally graphic, they capture the kind of fear a teenager might feel when sneaking out of the house has spiraled into something much more dangerous. Many are written in two or three columns that can be read vertically, or, for a more abstract experience, horizontally. Thus, McGlynn captures different layers of observation: the narrative line and the staccato of reaction. These unnerving poems leave room for humor and a more gentle sense of nostalgia, but they also display how crime and violence can fracture self and time. In her foreword to the book, Lynn Emanuel writes, “no matter which life, body, or landscape one lands in, all exist on a shared bedrock of violence and suffering, albeit one presided over by a glittering imagination.
-American Poets Magazine review of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl
Part film noir, part horror flick, these innovative poems dwell in the cul-de-sac badlands where crimes and heinous misdeeds are recurring. McGlynn, a performance poet and author of three chapbooks, offers poems in alternating views while tangling reality, time, and space. The book's motif is not connected to one central offense, yet each poem spins into the next to create a unified, albeit disturbing, whole. As in a horror film, there is danger skulking in every corner, in every seemingly benign doorway. McGlynn's poems are often hypnagogic, balancing half in the world, half in sleep. Along with masterly line and stanza breaks and the use of white space, McGlynn uses nuances that include poems written crosswise on the page. One poem reads, I cannot see / the sickness, the three seconds that will snap her / down like a switch, there / her vision cracks like I'll always be / the thing nascent, esophageal / caught mid-gargle in the black. VERDICT: Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.
-Karla Huston for Library Journal
I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl surveys a violence-tinged realm of shifting selves. Though it is tempting to say that violence forms the heart of this book, the heart is actually the empty, unflinching eye of a storm which uproots time and self entirely. The speaker of these poems slips the reader shards of otherworldly forensic evidence from a crime (or crimes) which simultaneously have not yet happened and have already happened. Snapshots document unrelenting scenes of suffering, as in 'God, I Got Down There to Get Off': 'In this compromising position, prone, missionary, firearm / my lower lip fat with guilt, I think grief delights / in catching me at all the wrong angles though I know / it stares without judgment, with an animal's open fixity.' McGlynn presents fragmented images in a variety of poetic forms, ranging from standard left-aligned free verse to disjointed, oddly satisfying columns. While obsessed with past-killing, the speaker of these poems wishes to destroy her history; she also strongly identifies with it, and cannot entirely escape it. McGlynn's vacillation between past, present, and future is marked and marred by the darker side of sexuality. Far from being a series of victim narratives, the poems approach instances of trauma with a voice both detached and searing. In 1994, not only does sexual violation insidiously affect all sex, but it is inextricably bound up with the murder in the title, for 'death and sex tickle the same damn spot.'"
-Jen Coleman for The Hollins Critic
In an era of too much noisy straining after novelty, it's flat out enchanting to encounter an authentically original voice. Karyna McGlynn is the real thing, sui generis. And her poems proceed from an apparently inexhaustible fund of imagination: savvy and serious, straight-arrow and subversive, calibrated to the finest, freshest, idiomatic pitch. When I read McGlynn, I'm convinced I'm hearing news from the future of poetry.
-Linda Gregerson, author of Magnetic North and The Selvage
I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl's anthem could be "there is so much I want to prevent" and so the poems run interference between the living and the dead, and like the multi-faced, clairvoyant speaker who is both breathing and buried, so McGlynn's poetic eyes are split: one serving as photographer, while the other acts as profiler, so that we are witness to what occurs within, and beyond, the frame. Working in a lyrical investigative mode, often using a columnar fragmentation, in which the work appears as vertical belts along the page, the poems are concurrently singular and dialogical. For McGlynn, every innocuous object has an ominous counterpoint--the bed as operating table; a farmhouse for egg production as killing site; panties as childhood emblem and crime-scene evidence; exposure as photographic process and life-threatening condition. These poems, ravenous and ravishing, debone everything in sight, and what a sight it is--a rose hung on a hook like rapist bait; water so moss-viscous it appears as Prell; radioactive fish; piss in a glass; and Christmas crèche. While her book documents various defacements and violations, ultimately the work highlights volition and reconstruction. McGlynn's book exhibits such spark and voracity it feels channeled instead of penned; and though it may knock us slant into the pitch, it is lit with luminol, liberating what is hidden, and in the process, illuminating and transforming us.
-Simone Muench, author of Orange Crush and Wolf Centos
Lurid, dominated by teen antiheroes, with plenty of underage sex amid a 21st-century Southern gothic atmosphere, McGlynn's debut is at its best vivid, disturbing and fun. Despite hints and feints, it has no consistent narrative; instead, it offers scenes, asides, interior monologues, fragments and portrayals of dangerous playmates and sexual awakenings: "death & sex tickle the same damn spot," McGlynn warns. One of her clearest and best poems of memory is called "God, I Got Down There to Get Off": I'm flat on my belly, hand in my jeans—/ and how to say every penny has become the eye/ of a dead relative watching me? With her adults either inattentive or ill-intentioned, McGlynn's strongest pages remember how she looked up to adventurous peers: Erin with the Feathered Hair, for example, who unpeels my northern pretense,/ leaves me quivering in a glitter tube-top/ as she unlocks the liquor cabinet. Conscious of precursors in popular film, her experiences crackle with life, and her best lines know when to stop, when to set out sexy facts and when to reach for verbal ornament, distinguishing her work from anything merely confessional.
-from Publishers Weekly
INTERVIEWS & NEWS
Neon Pajamas interviews me about "Poetry, Collage Art & Cottonmouths" (Summer 2018)
Miracle Monocle's Special Feature: Six Writers Explore Collage (Summer 2018)
The New York Times Book Review recommends Hothouse as an Editor's Choice (Summer 2017)
Locked Horn Press: an interview with Read Women contributor Karyna McGlynn (Winter 2016)
Speaking of Marvels: an interview with Karyna McGlynn (Fall 2015)
West Branch Wired: A Interview
with Karyna McGlynn (Winter 2015)
Indiana Review: I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl makes IR's Top 10 Titles
The Review Review’s Interview with Zachary Martin and Karyna McGlynn—Editors of Gulf Coast
The Houston Chronicle on Gulf Coast editors Karyna McGlynn and Zachary Martin
Treehouse Magazine interviews Karyna McGlynn about her work editing Gulf Coast
The Poetry Foundation: Jeremy Richards interviews Karyna McGlynn and Ragan Fox about Slam Poetry and Academia
Porter Square Books interviews Karyna McGlynn
The Houston Chronicle interviews Karyna McGlynn
The New York Times: a review of Hothouse by Kathleen Rooney
DIAGRAM: a review of Hothouse by Meg Wade
Jet Fuel Review: a review of Hothouse by R.E. Steele
Chris O. Cook's review at his Poetry Blog
John Jacob's review for Rain Taxi
Jeannine Hall Gailey’s review for The Rumpus
Valerie Wetlaufer's review for Poets’ Quarterly
Juliet Cook's review for Gently Read Literature
Micha Ling's review for Book Punch
Rebecca Ellis' review of Alabama Steve for RATTLE