New to me, I really wanted to like her Poetry (why does this word get capitalised?), and I did, a bit, every once in a while. I mean what isn’t to like really. Parked somewhere in the hard-drinking, blue-collar barfly, hard done to in love territory that I have always enjoyed reading…but mostly, the Poetry just didn’t have that flight, that deftness that elevates it. Some poems, ‘Collapsing Poem’ or ‘New Years Day’ to pick a couple, do work wholeheartedly and are convincing. The poem ‘A Childhood’ which is 24 lines long but only deploys 14 different lines to tell a taught story of dysfunction and (probably) abuse, is a stunning piece of work.
The 4th section (out of four) ‘Good Girl’ contains the most coherent and convincing set of poems in the book. ‘What do women want?’
‘I want a red dress/ I want it flimsy and cheap/ I want it too tight, I want to wear it/ until someone tears it off me’
Gives you a flavour of where she is at at this point in her book. Hard drinking, sod it all, devil take the hindmost kind of dazzle. It will either talk to you or it won’t
I wanted to love her Poetry because I really did love her short stories. There is almost no flab in the short story collection. Taught, gentle, affirming, lustful and some just weird – but weird done well – including a couple of wittily reimagined Fairy Tales and a vampire story of sorts at the (cold dead?) heart of the thing.
Double-dating with a sort of girlfriend only to find that she’s a con-artist….just because you had nothing better to do one Halloween; or another, when people are trying to extol the virtues of various types of blissed out yoga and ‘conscious breathing’ when all she wants to do is eat pizza while watching The Tudors; or the disastrous morning blow job after the disastrous drunken one night stand – ‘he’s so beautiful you know you can’t have him…’ in this room where ‘there isn’t a single book , unless you counted the ancient Yellow Pages’ – and despite her being aware of the disastrous nature of the encounter, she continues; or the confused ménage-a-tangle in which none of the three ever seem clear on what they want or how to make themselves happy…let alone anyone else.
‘She was reckless, and drank too much, and nothing ever worked out.’
Somewhere in that land formerly inhabited by Bukowski, Tom Waits when he was a Raindog and Raymond Carver, there’s a dimly-lit bar with a booth at the back and in that booth sits a woman nursing a scotch that isn’t her first of the day and scribbling in an old notebook. Like any scotch, you may like it or not but either way you can’t complain you didn’t know what you were getting when you ordered it.