Sam Riviere’s debut, 81 Austerities, began as a blog responding to the spending cuts, and went on in publication to win the 2012 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A sequel of sorts, the 72 poems in Kim Kardashian’s Marriage mark out equally sharpened lines of public and private engagement. Kim Kardashian’s 2011 marriage lasted for 72 days, and was seen by some as illustrative of the performative spectacle of celebrity life.
Whatever the truth of this (and Kardashian’s own statements refute it), Riviere has used the furore as a point of ignition, deploying terms from Kardashian’s make-up regimen to explore surfaces and self-consciousness, presentation and obfuscation. His approach eschews a dependence upon confessional modes of writing to explore what kind of meaning lies in impersonal methods of creation. For, as with 81 Austerities, the process of enquiry involves the composition method itself, this time in poems that have been produced by harvesting and manipulating the results of search engines to create a poetry of part-collage, part-improvisation.
The effect is as refractive as it is reflective, and disturbs the slant on biography until we are left with a pixellation of the first person. Kim Kardashian’s Marriage is a captivating examination of artifice and reality, privacy and exposure, and an uncanny commemoration of the contemporary moment.
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