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. Given her irreverent attitude toward poetry, she 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: its purpose, its application, its 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?” But it’s precisely because Minnis puts her literary transgressions center stage and refuses to sugar coat them that she’s able to pull it off. She 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 genuine and often humorous. She’s doing a lot more than meets the eye at first glance. 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 the background image of pink fluff.

 

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.”

Suicide by Federico Garcia Lorca

Suicide (translation by Alan S. Trueblood)

(Maybe it was because you hadn’t
mastered your geometry)

The lad was going blank.
It was ten in the morning.

His heart was growing full
of broken wings and rag flowers.

He noticed there remained
just one word on his lips.

And when he took off his gloves
a soft ash fell from his hands.

A tower showed through the balcony door.
He felt he was balcony and tower.

No doubt he saw how the clock,
stopped in its case, surveyed him.

He saw his shadow quiet and prone
on the white silk divan.

And the stiff, geometrical youth
smashed the mirror with a hatchet.

When it broke, a great burst of shadow
flooded the illusory room.

by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936)

What the Doctor Said by Raymond Carver

What the Doctor Said

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

by Raymond Carver (1938-1988)