Wednesday, April 02, 2008

BAD BAD by Chelsey Minnis

The book BAD BAD by Chelsey Minnis (published by Fence Books) begins with a series of prefaces. There are 68 of them, in fact. This is a line from "Preface 10":

People say it is very dangerous to write poems but they only mean that it is dangerous to your career as a poet...

How about that for a statement of intent? There's an amazing amount of chutzpah in the line, and in the poems that follow. Her work is antagonistic, fragmented, petulant, smart-assed, and singularly, honestly voiced. It's cagey, and unbelievably funny, too.

This is a bit from "Anti Vitae":

1977 - 1984

Nothing of interest.


Performed poorly in math. Taken aside by math teacher.
Receded into mediocrity of math.

D+ in conduct.

1985 - 1988

College application rejected by Cornell, Tufts, Northwestern
University Dartmouth, etc...

45% in math.


Failed to appear for graduate creative writing workshop. Class
discusses poem without me.

Mispronounce "Kant."


Unimpressive academic performance. Idle.

Lose essay contest.

Fail to get any recommendations from professors for graduate
school. All applications rejected.

1991 - 1992

Mental Health questioned.

I love the levels that list works on. It's self-deprecating, sure. It's also withering in its assessment of what is generally regarded as achievement, and of the people who make decisions about achievement. What is worthy and what isn't.

And that's the point of many of the poems. What's important and what isn't? What's worthy of a poetic treatment, and what isn't? What's a real poem, and what's academic frippery, a poem by the numbers, or intentional obscurity?

All this is Minnis' straight ahead (and sometimes downright defiant) tone:

from "Preface 48"

I would like to say..."This poem was influenced by Marianne Moore!"

But, "I have nothing to say to Marianne Moore and she has nothing to say to me!"

(Another quick observation: in one of the prefaces, she refers to her talent as inside her like an "épée." I love this quick, cutting tonal shift. Is there a more "high culture" touchstone than fencing? And right there, in the midst of this wonderful onslaught? Such a good word choice.)

Let's here it for BAD BAD by Chelsey Minnis. If you like a copy of the book, call us. We can order it. It should also be on our website, soon.

1 comment:

  1. Point of view of Perfection.


    Think if you really want it.


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