Mess and Mess And

Douglas Kearney. Noemi (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (110p) ISBN 978-1-934819-51-7
Kearney (Patter) undertakes an astounding enterprise in "mess studies," or studies in matter being "out of place," as he fuses poetry, ars poetica, and lyric criticism. His concern is not trash, which he defines as sorted and sordid, but rather the liminal space in the passage from garbage to order. Early in the collection, Kearney presents a glossary of terminology for specific gestures and phenomena pertaining to African-American performance and life. In these definitions, he puns and utilizes portmanteaus to perform the signification system by which the book operates. By way of these devices, which reveal a kind of double-jointed literacy, Kearney provides simultaneously masochistic and tongue-in-cheek critiques of his work as a poet, his politics, and his poetry. Marginalia, anecdotes, and drafts are littered throughout the text. Questioning the difference between rhetoric and poetry, Kearney posits risk as his answer as he analogizes the rhetorician and poet's respective tasks. He takes several risks in this collection; for instance, scrutinizing himself for the injustice he believes he committed in aestheticizing the experiences of Cicely Tyson. Elsewhere, he chronicles the painstaking endeavor of writing a poem about the personal trauma of miscarriage. In this extraordinary book, Kearney illustrates the normalization of white supremacy and the psychological consequences it has on black minds. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 10/01/2015
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