The End of Something   by Kate Greenstreet   Ahsahta Press , 176 pages, December 1, 2017

The End of Something

by Kate Greenstreet

Ahsahta Press, 176 pages, December 1, 2017


reviewed by Tyler Flynn Dorholt

Kate Greenstreet has published four books with Ahsahta Press. Each is a beautiful object, well-designed and often accompanied by additional Greenstreet art: handwriting, black and white photographs, video poems, and other art archived on her main website. With The End of Something, the last book in the series, Greenstreet continues with a multi-layered structure—the book begins and ends with black and white photographs (details of dolls, branches, cows, mountains)—but she adds entry points with a companion website to the book, replete with four video poems and a 15-track EP. The new website and its contents are stunning, and enough to suggest that Greenstreet approaches her work from all angles; but they also suggest that she is aware that there is never just one way into a work of art; or, rather, why not create many ways in? Through such awareness, the poems in The End of Something call our attention as readers to the senses that encircle thinking, and the images that follow these senses—through to speech and back with memory.

Greenstreet uses memory as the device from which an excavation of speech and interaction is made possible. Here is part of the text that precedes the book, and is printed in Greenstreet’s handwriting on the title page:


remember landscape?

It used to be everywhere. 


To encounter this question about landscape is to ask us to ready ourselves for the page as terrain. Even before readers walk into the poems in The End of Something, they encounter Greenstreet’s lyrical excursions and gatherings. There are lines on the cover, the insert, and the title page; on the bottom of the front and back cover, a series of lines jut across the base; when we open the first page, we find a blurred image with copied handwriting of a line that will appear later in the book, “a little tooth,” sneaking into view. This is where Greenstreet’s poems begin to shuttle us through narrative, and the gathering we do of the narrative is wound up in the speakers’ memory, an obfuscation of time, as in the title poem, “92: THE END OF SOMETHING”:


I smell my grilled cheese burning. I eat it anyway and think

about my childhood, when I would only eat toast black. Ac-

tually I don’t think about my childhood, I think about that

toast. I put another sandwich on, and burn it on purpose.


It is easy to huddle beneath the shape of thought in these poems (toast, waking up, being on a farm), but there is a vibrant sense of mystery here and it operates well when the poems question things. They question by lyrically employing scenery, dialogue, and recollection, but also through questions that end the poems; here are a few examples of last lines from the book, each arriving in the form of a question:


Sayin’ the dog’s smarter than you? (16)

Does looking at her picture tell you something? (58)

“what child is this?” (5)

Do you have a car? (34)

How do you solve your problems? (3)

Maybe this is what you mean when you say it’s better not

to be in touch? (96)


Questions—or questionings, as these are more investigatory than they are eager to be answered—abound in Greenstreet’s poems, and the speaker does not deflect them; she also doesn’t answer them, or pretend to know the answer to them. Instead, the poems direct a sense of questioning back inside us. In “40. THEY ALL WANT TO TRY THE VEIL,” Greenstreet writes,


He sat right there.

You had your turn, okay?


The last line reveals the power of the question as indictment. It is a noisy and personal and dark question, and it reveals a myriad of possibilities. The poems adjust themselves so that what is questioned can be gleaned in scraps; that which dangles in a room long after we’ve left it; the sound of the unsaid; the weight of the unheard; the space of the spoken. They often do this through questions but they also are grounded in images, images like the doll on the cover. In life, we use dolls to interact with, to accompany the idea of play, to expand our worlds, but they are also put away, left to be, with their eyes open when no one is around, or when everyone else is sleeping. We put them away but they are never away. If we move as a doll does, what more are we sensing? (“72 LITTLE OAK”):


We were going to move to Reno.

Our imaginary daughter had become real


and there was somebody there

who could help her.


Greenstreet’s poems don’t pretend jotting something down is a clean or perfected experience. Only that it happens, and we often have to reconcile the happening with memory alone. Jotted-down means taken in, strum inward, and what’s so enduring in Greenstreet’s poems is that they are the result of the jotting-down resurfacing again. What we’ve heard and seen becomes a part of us until it needs to get out.

So is that the end of something, that we recall it, back into language? Or is the end in how we take it in? Greenstreet herself has stated, in a recent interview, that although she thinks of The End of Something as a conclusion—in a four-book series—one can just as easily dip into, or start with, any of her previous three books, then move through all of them—and the images and songs and video poems—at random.  I would argue that this is what the poems in the book do best as well—they occupy the space between what we see and what we sign, and bring us back into them again. There are rich and explicit narratives herein—especially with a character named Mike, the idea of Mike, and who our own Mike’s are—but the poems amble out from what has survived memory’s mining. They do not make aim to contain. Instead, they plunk down for a moment in the detritus of the overheard. They rumble in the unseen, and thus invite roaming. They grapple with the indeterminacies of interconnectedness, and thus somehow become stronger in how they then connect.


Tyler Flynn Dorholt is the author of American Flowers (Dock Street Press), and co-editor and publisher of the journal and press, Tammy. He writes, makes art, and lives with his wife and son in Syracuse, NY.