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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Patricia Lockwood Is So Much More Than—Ugh—"The Poet Laureate of Twitter"

Posted by on Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 1:01 PM

(Patricia Lockwood reads at Elliott Bay Book Company tomorrow night at 7 pm. The reading is free.)

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Patricia Lockwood's Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals gave me the peculiar feeling that I was reading the first true book of poetry to be published in the 21st century. I almost didn't write about this feeling, for fear of insulting every other poet whose books I've read and loved in the last 14 years. But understand me: This is not a declaration of war on everything that came before, but rather a celebration of a talented writer who finally figured out a way, consistently, to distill pure music out of the business-savvy, meme-injected language in which we marinate every day.

In "The Arch," Lockwood observes that the St. Louis landmark "of all living monuments has the fewest/facts attached to it, they slide right off/its surface, no Lincoln lap for them to sit/on and no horse to be astride..." From there, the poem runs wild in a spray of excitement, spitting out even wrong factoids ("Or am I mixing it up I think I am/with another famous female statue?") like a disputed Wikipedia article besieged by opinionated editors, dipping into art criticism ("What an underhand/gift for an elsewhere to give, a door/that reminds you you can leave it"), and closing on a surprisingly tender image of Lockwood's mother raising "her arm to brush my hair. Oh no female/armpit lovelier than the armpit of the Arch."

The poems in Motherland (Penguin Poets, $20) are a riot of ideas and observations, as a glance at the table of contents will warn you, with titles like "Search 'Lizard Vagina' and You Shall Find," "The Whole World Gets Together and Gangbangs a Deer," "The Hunt for a Newborn Gary," "Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It," "Last of the Late Great Gorilla-Suit Actors," and "Factories Are Everywhere in Poetry Right Now." ...

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