Today we learn that it's resentment that keeps the home fires burning for our most Crucial Rooster, as Reb tells us about two new wonderful poets we're going to love to hate.
Crucial Rooster: Poetry Column by Reb Livingston
I’m going to let you in on a secret. Whenever a poet reads or hears a line from a poem that she wishes she wrote, her initial reaction is rage and if that poet doesn’t hurry up and practice yoga or run 20 miles or swallow 5 Xanax, that rage will quickly solidifies into a suffocating resentment.
On Tuesday I heard Shanna Compton and Jennifer L. Knox read from their new (and first!) collections of poetry at Chapter’s Bookstore in Washington, D.C. Compton’s Down Spooky was the winner of the 2004 Winnow Press Open Poetry Award and Knox’s A Gringo Like Me was just released from Soft Skull Press.
Unfortunately I didn’t have my yoga mat or my running shoes or a prescription for Xanax so I am brimming with resentment and have two new poets to add to my “hate them/wouldn’t want to date them” list.
It was the last reading of the first leg of their U.S. tour. Later this month and next they will be giving readings in NYC, Ann Arbor, Muncie, Milwaukee, Chicago, Santa Cruz, Berkeley and Ashland. All the poets have been aflutter about this reading tour:
Atlanta poet and professor Bruce Covey wrote, “Omigod! Shanna and Jennifer were awesome – you’ll enjoy their reading.”
Laura Carter said, “Omigod! You are in for a treat. Be sure to ask Jen to read "Chicken Bucket."
Laurel Snyder blogged, “Holy Moly! Their reading at Java Monkey blew the crowd away. People were crying in laughter. And the Emory reading with the incomparable Danielle Pafunda) was equally incredible. . .”
“Praise Zeus! Knox caused a very awkward moment on a plane when her poems sent me into a fit of laughter” exclaimed Kaplan Page Harris.
Newcomer to the D.C. scene, poet Maureen Thorton, showed up to the Chapter’s reading with handmade signs “Shantastic!” and “Jennifer Knox My Socks Off!” I’ve given a number of poetry readings and nobody ever bothered to make a sign for me. A queasy sensation clutched my belly. It’s all hype I told myself. You’re still the prettiest girl in the room!
The reading started fifteen minutes late because Shanna and Jennifer drove all day from Nashville, TN. No doubt held up by their adoring groupies. I am not resentful about the late start, in fact, I believe all poetry readings should start at least 15, if not 30 minutes late.What kind of jackass starts a reading on time? More than you might imagine.
But no, my ill feelings run much deeper. I endured poem after poem full of sharp and fabulous lines that I am quite sure I was supposed to write. Somehow Shanna Compton and Jennifer Knox stole my thoughts years before I ever thought them and according to my lawyer sister, there’s nothing I can do about it.
Between hearing the reading and then pouring over their obnoxiously addictive first books, I suffered numerous indignities.
From Compton’s Down Spooky:
That girl there wore stiffened stays / and laced herself with bones. / She tied herself with strings, became / a little ham of rage. (from the poem “Contrast Girls”)
The warmth / of someone else’s ass left / on the subway seat / is sometimes a comfort (from the poem “The Local”)
From Knox’s A Gringo Like Me:
Dear reader, I am writing to you / from deep inside my own ass. (from the poem “Call from the Canyon”)
Motherfucker. I just found out my boyfriend’s a prostitute. (from the poem “Cruising for Prostitutes”)
We are afraid / of our own unborn children—that one day it’ll all come down / to Mom, Dad—can I have the car tonight? and when we say / no they’ll shoot us in the head. (from the poem “We Are Afraid”)
If you’re near any of the places Shanna and Jennifer will be gracing on the 2nd and 3rd legs of their tour and are into getting your “socks knoxed off” – pencil them in your planner. If not, you can still get your copies of Down Spooky and A Gringo Like Me. If you’re a writer, remember, resentment is a natural and healthy emotion. Embrace it. It’ll keep you warm at night.