Realm Sixty-Four is an invitation to engage in some serious play. Taking its name from the literal field of the chessboard, Kristi Maxwell’s first book explores the dynamics of engagement, both through and within language. These poems are interested in the strategies that interactions encompass—interactions between words, between play and praise, between illusion and non-illusion, illusion and eluding, idea and image, between speakers, between voices, and between reader and text. From the history of the chess-playing automaton known as The Turk to a series of flirtations cadged in the game’s battlefield language, the subjects of Maxwell’s poems are rarely what they seem to be.
“There is an unspeakable intimacy in opposition—well, not wholly unspeakable, as Kristi Maxwell’s extraordinary debut proves. Opponents sit facing each other, a board constructed of 64 squares between them, a realm of possibilities circumscribed by Law and Chance, each person attempting to read the thoughts of the other. So a book sits between a poet and reader. So a bed looms between lovers. A space of contention, of agony in the antique sense, is likewise a space of creation, of genius. Maxwell knows chess pieces and words share an existence. The grammar beneath our speaking charts the desire our words try to express, repress, manipulate, confess, much as the King is reduced to his feeble step in any direction, the Queen can sprint her length through the campaign, and the Knight jumps over the Pawn’s heads. More important still, beyond the intricacy Maxwell reveals, beyond the enchantment in which she revels, is her insistent demonstration that poetry, like chess, is an art of thinking, and an art of risk, at whose final move, at the last blank page, one hears in echo a voice say Check, and pays closer attention to the before unseen threat.” —Dan Beachy-Quick