I started to write my thoughts on Alli Warren’s new chapbook, Well-Meaning White Girl, and I realized that I was picking out the dirty parts as I read. Here, then, are the dirty parts, pretending to be a new poem.
out of several secretions
come bursting through the ground
in gaping engagement
must be made more moist
with spore sacs and sac fruits
and we were all like
plugging the whole
all gummy in the mouth
breathing and peopled cupping
we wipe each other off
waxing real hard
pussywillows whip in the wind
I lick around the perimeter and then I lick under
insert two fingers to bring breath
the flooding comes
donk for days
I lay my button down on naked ladies
if this is decadence
I had something special on
big breathy icons
and fruity knockers
I held it in my mouth
In fact, Alli has written a pretty sexy little chapbook. I say pretty sexy and not sexy-dynamite because it is coded and restrained, the lines above notwithstanding. The code and restraint are perhaps signals of artful adeptness and also maybe a coyer kind of sexiness.
I felt the same thing reading Rob Halpern’s Disaster Suites: his poems skirt around anal/phallic/emotional ecstasies without actually BUSTING OUT and wallowing in them. People don’t really “bust out” a la the late great Lenore Kandel anymore, do they. No.
In these books, sexiness is tempered with, for example, metaphors of economy. Gold. Capital. Is this superimposition of “materialist discourse” a way of borrowing legitimacy for the form-seeking of their pleasures and longings? Not that economy economy is an unsuitable analogy for libidinal economy; if anything, it’s all too apt.
I wonder though, if it might function as a sort of id-mask, most noticeable in the moments where the mask wears thin? Well, I suspect all art, no matter how stringent or astringent, is id-sluice of some sort…does anyone disagree?… but it’s one thing to funnel it and another to mask it. There are those little holes where you can see the real eyes, that the nostrils can breathe through. Breath makes the nose and mouth parts of the mask a little annoyingly moist.
Well and so what if I do want to peer inside (or now and then take a crowbar to) everyone’s Pandora chora? Well, now we laugh at Kandel, we are too smart for that sort of thing now: she’s just “too much.” Someone has scratchitied “CHAOS” onto the armrest thing of the F train. Well, we’re cool, everyone’s cool. The poetry is delicate and understated, which makes it different from life.
Speaking of codes, she really is adept at code switching line by line starting from say a gospel or blues voice and moving into nature study then lit crit then medicine, then something decorative, then something colloqial. Or maybe it starts punk moves to faux-ghetto and then becomes consumerist, then Californian, then macho, then “community-addressing”, punk again, then quotidian, then something I don’t understand, then back to nature, biology, and finally back to faux-ghetto. All these strains. They don’t make direct statements, they aren’t rhetorical, and they don’t wallow, and they don’t let anything out of the box, quite: the little imps kind of just peek out, webbed fingers clutching the wooden edge, their wicked eyes going this way and that.
There are things I don’t understand like why are gold and cash “themes”– even reinforced by the gold tissue endpapers – but only for the first three pages or so? And then is the title a kind of main idea and if so why doesn’t it have anything to do with the gold? I like the title, but these are not, I think, hairshirt poems. No, they are masked pleasure poems, or at least, that is what I am positing here. What do you think?