Vile Lilt

Nada Gordon. Roof (SPD, dist.), $14.95 paper (114p) ISBN 978-1-931824-49-1
Gordon (Folly) enjoys a reputation as a member of the controversial, arguably silly Flarf Collective, which makes poems from awkward, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate language discovered through Web searches; it's no surprise, then, to find in this seventh book such comically awkward, disorienting moments as those in "Asia," where "the Kings of Catachresis stood/ And cried in bitter time-fused pantaloons… To cut off the nympho from the salvo/ That the rebukingly blueberry day may learn to obey." Nor is it a surprise to see that "Asia" and other poems incorporate, answer, and satirize famous serious poems by William Blake, George Herbert, Robert Duncan, and others: absurdist satire is Flarf's strong suit. (Responding to Duncan, Gordon writes, deliciously, "For such tiny little fluffy babies,/ they sure can chirp LOUD"). Yet Gordon at her best is not just a collagist, and not just a satirist: some of her comic takes on the poems of the past shade over into serious feminist claims, even into extravagant manifestos, defending (among other things) a poetry of girly decoration, of enthusiastic inconsequence, of "all these excessively decadent, sugary/ color schemes emboldened with rose/ gold & bracelets." Verse and prose, a bizarre multi-page chart, and even brief closet drama ("Beatles' Ex-Wives Reunion," with four speaking parts) presents a poet who wants to do more than shock; at her best, she "sets out gaily to study costumes" with an eye to radical critique, more Caryl Churchill than Monty Python, and at her best, after her zigzags and mockeries, the critique remains. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/29/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
Genre: Fiction
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