Can the dry milieu of the business office possibly inspire a juicy poetry? Kate Bernadette Benedict reminds us that the office is the province of every human thing—birth, death, eros, agon, alienation, camaraderies, ambition, despair, hope. And she does so with protean artistry and exquisite zest.
The best work poets immerse us in the sensual detail of a specific workplace, simultaneously infusing the depiction of that job with an awareness of the big picture, of what’s at stake for those who experience this employment. Kate Bernadette Benedict impressively accomplishes all this, and more. As we might expect from someone whose work record includes years employed by publishers and by a financial corporation, she combines a mastery of words and an insider’s sharp eye to portray contemporary office work—cubicles, corridors, high-rise window views, and a rigid pecking order—in a fresh and enthralling way. The poems ring with Benedict’s love of words and her skills with language take us along with her.
Kate Bernadette Benedict has done the impossible. She has written a collection of poems about office work and made it beautiful and somehow ennobling. Anyone can write about Tuscany. It takes a real poet to find inspiration in the everyday reality of working people.
Who’d have thought it? Lurking there, beside the receptionist’s desk, next to your computer, amid the potted plants, even there at the mirror in the women’s bathroom is—the poet! Embodying thirty years of office work experience, Kate Bernadette Benedict’s In Company is an exploration in finely crafted verse of what lies below the surface of the corporate quotidian. “Profit is what I cultivate / in this green building of hermetic glass,” she writes, with characteristic elegance, “with the perfect symmetry of the crystal / and a crystal’s fine sterility.” Enter the building, however, and you will find Eros everywhere. On the job answering phones one day, the poet is ravished repeatedly by a demon lover. The lover was poetry, and there’s been no turning back. Open this book and be similarly ravished.
—David M. Katz
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