cover image Gray Market

Gray Market

Krystal Languell. 1913, $17 trade paper (70p) ISBN 978-0-9906332-7-3

In her second collection, Languell (Call the Catastrophists) attends to the ways that grammar reproduces gendered, and thus inherently problematic, definitions of reason. Her poems suggest that this binary thinking—and its projection of qualities that have been coded as masculine and feminine—determines valuation in a marketplace of texts, labor, and goods. “Beauty is added at the marketing stage/ Beauty is proof she is fit to consume,” Languell writes, fracturing the expository prose of ad copy and undermining its ostensible utility. Here, and throughout the book, Languell defiantly reproduces the rhetoric and syntax of consumer culture. But her poems are at their most provocative when she deviates from clean syntactic structures, allowing her language to become unruly, enough so to do justice to her pointed cultural commentary: “Listen/ Redundancy built in/ Glissando, basic plagiarism/ For demonstration’s sake/ Shiny penny, no one cares/ Negative net worth garners faith.” Speech becomes an end in itself as the poet gestures toward a more mindful way of inhabiting familiar syntactic structures. Yet the poems often fall short of the technical innovation needed to fully articulate an alternative framework, a language outside of this dim and dismal marketplace. “No need to perform a language stunt,” Languell reassures her readers, but they may see the need for one. (Jan.)