Poetry on the Edge

Well, If I had planned this better, I could’ve reviewed a nice little poetry collection in national poetry month, but then I of course had to geek out about C2E2 in my last entry. No regrets there. I had a great time. Now, though, I want to finally present this little masterful collection of poetry that I’ve had waiting to make its debut on my little blog. I’m talking about Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, by Patricia Lockwood.

MFHPL

Perhaps I being misleading by calling this book nice and little. I mean, it’s as slim as any poetry collection, but Lockwood puts too much into her work for it to simply be called nice. Judging by the questions Lockwood asks on the back, she’s going for a decidedly more edgy feel to her book. The book’s back cover asks prospective readers:

“What if a deer did porn?”

“Is America going down on Canada?”

“What Happens when Niagara Falls gets drunk at a wedding?”

“Is it legal to marry a stuffed owl exhibit?”

And finally, my personal favorite…

“What would Walt Whitman’s tit-pics look like?”

See what I mean? This sort of book both immediately intrigued me and also immediately made me regret shopping for poetry books with my father. He saw the thing, and probably assumes I’m mentally diseased now. Really though, after reading Lockwood’s work, I found myself mentally enriched in a way that only reading the right poetry can manage.

Can I say there is no poem regarding deer porn or marrying stuffed owl exhibits? No, I actually cannot. Those poems are in there. but of course they are about so much more than the simple salacious teases offered on this collection’s back cover. Lockwood speaks with an empowering poetic honesty. That honesty means that yes, she can speak dark words, “dirty” words , like in her poem “Rape Joke,” but out of that dark place bring something lighter, better, to the reader thanks to how earnestly she addresses the reader and those images dancing around in her head.

I picked up this odd, prickly book because, just at a quick glance, I saw several lines of poetry that I could deeply connect to. I didn’t know until later, when I properly perused the book at home, that there was even a piece called “Rape Joke” in the book, or that that poem created its own controversy when it came out, being seen by some as offensive and wrong and by others as the definitive word on the rape joke debate. I probably could’ve guessed as much, though.

Poetry as a medium in general seems like an excellent lightening rod for shock and controversy, if given the right sort of incendiary topics. It’s a highly interpretive medium, and people who pick edgy topics to address it almost seem like they can be asking for a fight, on the surface.

Truly reading poetry though, delectable lines and verse that just draw you in, like dear ole Lockwood, reveals the true aim of poems about gang-banging Bambi and sexually exploiting Walt Whitman. Poetry, with a much lower word count than novels or prose, relies on using the right phrases to pluck emotional chords that speak truthfully to the reader. Lockwood picks some pretty shocking chords to pluck at, if you look at simply the titles of her work, but each poem itself goes less for the shock value such titles and teaser lines suggest and more for an earnest emotional appeal for connection. In this specific collection for example, Lockwood’s work often finds itself addressing the idea of places and location, and what happens to people who find themselves connected to that place or when places find themselves connected to those people. On the whole, I found this collection rich imagery and exploration. It made me eager to pick up more work by Lockwood.

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