Madame Deluxe

Tenaya Darlington, Author Coffee House Press $13.95 (78p) ISBN 978-1-56689-105-9
""Next year's colors will be gravy and snow."" Genes from Plath, Sexton, and RuPaul; argot from several Midwestern drag queens; fresh produce; lace undies; clippings from Wired and shots from Italian Vogue might all nourish Madame Deluxe, the unsubtle, flirty, synthetic, sarcastic, and sometimes charming alter ego who dominates Darlington's first book of verse. Sex in the city, cyborgs, ""the pleasures of leather"" (and ""pleather""), and discarded undergarments in an urban river give Darlington some of her eye-grabbing props. Sometimes she's content to break, or pretend to break, old taboos, and the poems unravel into mere lists and riffs: ""well-oiled fingers/ moving deep/ into the under-tofu of your flesh."" A series of prose poems called ""Discounted Sonnets"" are as overtly explicit, and their shock wears off with rereading. But when Darlington finds a form, she's funny and memorable: ""Madame Deluxe's Instructional Manual and Marriage Guide"" comprises a series of off-kilter questions and answers: ""Q. Why do I see a reflection around my wife's outer case?/ A. The light is from the bulb located inside her birth cavity. Do not use this cavity for storage purposes."" Her most complex poems mix their sex with indirection, vivid description with jokes and teasing epigrams. Darlington's work dares readers to see through its flickering shallows, to find the pearls in an epistemological riverbed: ""Oxymorons/ are dumb girls with clear skin.// That's what's good for the gander. Listen:/ love is a polite way of saying alright already."" Will this flashy persona reappear? Will this poet have staying power? Who knows? Lots of young, with-it readers will seek this book out and embrace it as soon as they hear of it; they shouldn't be disappointed: ""All the poem wants/ is for someone to stick their fingers through it/ and wear it around town like a mask."" (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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