Presenting engagements (including reviews) of poetry books & projects. Occasionally there will be Featured Poets, as well as offerings from "The Critic Writes Poems" series. Deadline is ongoing: reviews will be posted as submitted and accepted. Please engage!
The Beast Turns Me Into a Tantrumbeast by Agnes Marton
(Moria Books’ Locofo Chaps, Chicago, 2017)
I’m the President, You Are Not by Agnes Marton
Several reviews in of the Locofo
series, and this chap seems to be the first instance of someone using the same
kind of pig-swill foulness that Trump himself uses to combat his uneducated,
subhuman invective. This volume is in your face from the go, with the
beautiful, abstract, surrealist art of Rusudan Gobejishvili Khizanishvili
splattered across the cover in a violent collusion of color and nature. It only
gets stronger from there, as in the first poem, “I’m Pissing Over the Candles
of Your Vigil”, Marton spews language that seems to come straight out of the
demagogue’s playbook. Take, for example, the line “You will shit where I allow
you to sit.” or “I rub my snot all over your chest.” or even “I’m alive,
rooting your intestines in the yard.” One cannot help to be both delighted and
disgusted at such language. Delighted, in the sense that someone has chosen to
fight fire with fire, so to speak, with America’s modern-day hate machine.
Disgusted, however, in the fact that one has to resort to such tactics with the
President of the United States.
One can only hope that the
irreverence to Trump is extended to modern monarchies in the poem “Being a
Drone” when the author states “Fucking the queen/would be tedious,/but that’s
what I’m supposed to think of:/google, fly in and/bang.” The author, however,
seems to recognize the duality of her actions when, in later lines, she states
that she is “A left-right-wing/rebel.”
One remarkable act in her verse is
that she manages to strip Trump, a man whose very name is a brand, of his capitalist
leanings, instead referring to him as Tr… when she states “Fucking Tr…would be
even worse, tragic.” She does the same of his title in “Incident at the
Tr(ambolino) Hotel”, taking his name both out of the title of the poem, and
refusing to acknowledge his address, instead referring to it as “1… P..s… Ave
NW”. For someone who derives his power from language, syntax, and propaganda,
Marton manages to de-tool the leader of the free world, even if one has to
question this type of fighting fire with fire without direct action. This is
part of a recurring theme on the left, although, to Marton’s credit, she seems
more than willing to back up her words with action. In “Us and Them”, her last
lines drives this point home, as she asks, “What if I close your eyes?”
Let’s hope that actions will speak
louder than words.
The Beast Turns Me Into a Tantrumbeast
While the styles of the two
chapbooks are different in the sense that the profanity is more subtle in this
volume (as opposed to I am the President,
You Are Not), the words still ring home as deathly true as they did before.
Marton, it seems, has a deft talent for taking the styling of a demagogue,
reducing language to its coarsest, grittiest form in order to fight fire with
fire. The artwork of Rusudan Gobejishvili Khizanishvili returns in this chap,
with the abstract, surrealist styling tempered with hues of blue, yellow and
pink, almost as to announce a toning down of the author’s work.
Don’t let this lead you to think,
however, that all of the grit is gone. In “Taken”, for example, the author
responds to a lover/enemy’s overtures by declaring “You try to throw me up/but
I find my way back./Each you confide in is my bitch./Don’t even dare ask./You
are mine.” There seems to be a desperation in her voice (forgive me if I’m
misgendering), a cry to acknowledge that, yes, it was our desperate flaws
within our world that led us to where we are today, and our unwillingness to
see those faults in others that gave us the demagogue that controls our future,
if even for a short time. The fact that this particular poem is written “with
respect to Edward Snowden” makes the language even more potent.
That’s not to say that the issues of
this administration are not directly tackled in this volume. They are,
especially in the poem “The Runaway Madonna”. The issue of immigration comes up
within, saying “…Step back, Lizzie,/this border is not yours to pass./You might
enjoy some patting down/without being busted./I’ll never give you the all
clear.” This is a callback to The Who, and their hit “Won’t get Fooled Again”,
when Roger Daltery sang “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss.” It does seem
that, at least as it pertains to neoliberalism, that the more things change,
the more they are destined to stay the same.
All in all, this volume serves as a
delightful companion to the harsher, more virulent styling of it’s sister
companion. It reminds us that, even under the hard shell of a revolutionary,
there’s a scared, desperate child, one who feels like they’ll have to go to whatever
lengths necessary to ensure that their existence continues…even if it is
stooping to the level of those who sought to dehumanize them to begin with.
From works for children to the macabre, from academic research to sports journalism, and from opinion essays to the erotic, M. Earl Smith is a writer that seeks to stretch the boundaries of genre and style. A native of Southeast Tennessee, M. Earl moved to Ohio at nineteen and, with success, reinvented himself as a writer after parting ways with his wife of eleven years. After graduating from Chatfield College (with highest honors) in 2015, M. Earl became the first student from Chatfield to matriculate at an Ivy League institution when he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia. The proud father of two wonderful children (Nicholas and Leah), M. Earl studies creative writing and history at UPenn. When he’s not studying, M. Earl splits time between Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Chattanooga, with road trips to New York City, Wichita, Kansas, and Northampton, Massachusetts in between.