Poemland by Chelsey Minnis

Poemland by Chelsey Minnis

I wanted to bring to light a poet who has been dormant for the better part of the last decade and, given her irreverent attitude toward poetry, is perhaps exactly where she wants to be: out of the spotlight. Nevertheless, I think Chelsey Minnis holds an important place in the tradition of subversive literature, and does well to challenge our ideas of poetry: it’s purpose, it’s application, it’s presentation, etc.

It’s rare that a poet has the audacity to provoke her readers with mockery, and then to turn and say to them, “Isn’t this why you bought my book of poems?” Minnis isn’t handing out moral lessons or sentimental portraits; she’s bringing us poetry like a “whip brought to you on a tray,” and asking us to accept a challenge. As such, she has garnered somewhat of a divisive response to her writing. Initially, I found her crass. But something stuck with me about her, and I gave her another chance. Soon, I found myself impressed by her inventiveness and her mastery of voice. I also began to find the flippant attitude of her speaker quite funny. She’s doing a lot more than meets the eye. Stay with her, and you’ll find yourself in on her elaborate little joke, instead of on the end of it.

The last book she released was “Poemland.” Note the stylized title within the frame of the barcode, stamped over a background of pink fluff. This is paradigmatic of the poetry within, which loves to casually expose a hidden agenda. Here, I think Minnis intends to remind us that what we’re buying isn’t just a book; it’s a product.

Image result for chelsey minnis poemland

Here are some excerpts from Poemland (2009):

 

“It is like picking up a white telephone and ordering champagne…

And a blood drop licked off an apple…

I don’t see why I must be so terrifically sorry…

With this book I have made a very expensive joke…”

 

 

“This is a long boring attack.

How can you fail to pretend to be encouraging and reasonable?

Ridiculous achievements of life!

This is when I talk and talk boringly into a tape recorder but point to my vagina…”

 

“My selfless vengeance will never be appreciated!

I’ll chop your head off!

And I’ll carry it around by the hair…

And you just sit there smiling and playing the piano with your prosthetic hooks…”

 

“This is when your hair sticks to your lipstick and it is so cuckoo…

You close the bedroom-dividing curtain…

Gold smudges…and a gemstone powered engine!

A great devalued thing is a plain life…

But I like it like a venus-fly-trap pried open with tweezers…”

 

“I want to sit very calmly with my bangs curled…

But my pet monster has bitten my hand!

Life makes me sad.

So sad that I walk down the street etc.”

Drinking And Writing

Drinking and Writing

The slurred myth of poet-drunks
being superior to sober poets
is only bar-talk between bullshitters
after two in the morning.
I mashed that self-destruct button
for a whole decade and got no gut-feeling
other than a sick one.
I lost valuables and fell in the streets,
racked up regrets and grievances, woke up
on the bottom half
of a wheeling depression
after nights of bad sleep in a backwards dream.
Dionysus never imbued me with the wisdom
of the vine. I never
saw the point of the moon
after a jug of wine.
What I gained in courage
I lost in dependency:
Booze only inspired
poor spelling
and a trip to the pisser
every three lines.

by Ryan Dowling

The Flophouse

The Flophouse

It was getting dark as I drove into Whitehorse.
All the hotels were grossly overpriced, except one
where I haggled the owner down to $50.
I got my key and passed the rest of the evening
with a local alcoholic—even entertained the idea
of sleeping with her, but she was 86’d
from every bar in town and only looking
to cadge a drink. Back in my room,
the bleak yellow walls bled obscenities
through a cheap coat of paint. A film of scum
thickened on the bathroom sink and tub,
and I felt cleaner in my own filth.
The recliner was so ravaged with burn holes
I didn’t dare sit in it, and the TV didn’t work anyway.
Fully clothed, I sank into the broken bed,
and I laid awake listening to the angry voices
and slamming of doors in the corridor
until 4 a.m. Then I gathered my belongings
and left in the middle of a blizzard.

by Ryan Dowling

Wolfsbane (Aconitum)

Wolfsbane (Aconitum)

On our stroll back from the estuary,
we rested beside a riverbank
and tugged these hooded flowers
from the edge of the foam.
I told you that they were violets,
but—what did I know?—
I couldn’t tell a lily from a lilac.

I wove them into your curls
until your hair was as heavy with purple
as dusk upon the rollicking waters,
slow-motion in the quickening breeze.

When I leaned my lips into yours,
yours had begun to quiver and sweat.
You grew rigid
and heavy
as petrified wood.
At first I was embarrassed
I’d overstepped
the boundaries that boys often risk
when faced with beautiful girls.
But later, I learned that the stems
of those flowers
had leaked into your scalp—
though it was hardly anything,
hardly anything at all—
this I learned
only after the paramedics
gave up on you.

by Ryan Dowling

Salutation by Ezra Pound

Salutation

O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fishermen picnicking in the sun,
I have seen them with untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.

by Ezra Pound (1885-1972)

In an age of instant gratification

In an age of instant gratification

there are days when you
kick back like the farmers
in a three-week drought
and wonder
if the ancient rain dances
had any merit,
if you should slit your palm
with a dagger
and bleed over a fire
or if
a Hail Mary, an Our Father
just might reach
its intended audience.

It’s better to understand
that the gods don’t care
if you holler damnations
into the dark
or if you twist your baseball cap
from back
to front
and then cock it
to the left.

They won’t even notice
if you sing in church
or you shit
in the woods
or you fleck
holy water over your pillow
or you carve
with a stick
an ankh or a cross
or a pentagram
or a corporate logo
or whatever that’s
supposed to be
in the dust
and then you kneel down
and kiss it.

The rain will fall
when it falls.
The poems will come
when they come.

The hardest thing for
us to do
is to be patient,
especially when there’s a
15 minute wait
at the McDonald’s
drive-thru.

by Ryan Dowling