Sunday, March 27, 2016

Martha - Leslie Allison (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Martha.  Leslie Allison.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2015

Martha

When I tell you that in part, Martha is a sex fantasy for lesbians you are going to start thinking one thing.  Well, think another, because Martha is a ghost story.  No, a feminist knee-slap, laugh out loud kitchen party, if it were Martha Stewart's kitchen and she were surrounded by sex-slave minions.

This is a carnival ride with illustrations by Molly Schaeffer that will remind Canadian readers of Joe Rosenblatt style drawings of flying labia, multitude of them arranges into bouquets, mental bromides, dashing off of the pages.

Today's book of poetry believes two important things are happening at the same time in Leslie Allison's highly entertaining Martha.  There is the pink-toned-pink-lipped-Divine-over-the-hill and bonkers comic romp that is Martha.  And at the same time it is clear that Allison is being serious as a heart attack with every word.  

There are no titles per se in Martha and it is unlikely my choices of text fall into Leslie Allison's original design so please know the fault is mine, not Allison's.  Today's book of poetry thought that every line in this punk steamroller of a chapbook was cherse.  And ghosts.

- - -

Dear Diary:
do you remember when I arrived?
back then the images were like straight out of Moby-Dick
noble and naval, ropes, wood
cold steam lilting truth from room to room
and now

well, my vagina
has nerve damage
and it's all
I can think about


in the drawing room
I see Kate
names are not ever real words
but Kate is a word

Madeline's palatial shudder creates a vortex that sucks me

under like riptide
and dark moisturized genderless Kate
is endless

forever trailed by Ghengis Khan
who puffs himself up and
sheds in her shadow

Martha's skin is neon moire
her oily hands are dishrags
even still portions of her always appear to be moving

she appliques a life-size two dimensional version
of every object in the house
onto that very object
an applique of a curtain
on a curtain,
a chair on a chair
so the palace is a quilt
Martha's own body is concealed
behind an applique of herself

this house may be the house
in which she lives
marbled curls and peels
distortion
she fingers literally everything
this may be the definition of 'crafts'

...

Martha has our heroine joining Martha Stewart's fictional nun's-habit-wearing-harem in an oddly fantastic Martha Stewart world of delicate debauchery.

Leslie Allison's Martha sure roiled up some reaction at this morning's read.  Milo made great comic strides riffing through this ghost love story full of passion but then every once in a while he would bounce awkward over some of the more overt and ribald sexuality that prance over these pages like a Madeleine Schubert driven Pegasus.  Kathryn, our new intern, punctuated Milo's red cheeked silences by pointing out that women's sexuality has been thoroughly colonized by the oppressive nature of the male gaze and that books like Martha undermine the dominant male role in our deeply polarized and protestant society.

Oh that Kathryn.

- - -

Actually that's the only face she has
and she puts it on every morning

flipping through profile pages
the usual suspects drum out their wares in waves
do you even know what is interesting about that?
I sure don't

to be fair, I know nothing if I'm not high
I just wait for Martha to feed me mashed potatoes
with her little fingers and I suck them until she tells me to stop

but Madeline, she chants a little song in my ear
when Martha goes out of town:
we built this temple
not let's burn it to the fucking ground
oh
how I wish she meant this
flower

When I went into Martha's room last night
to ask if I was allowed to change out of my habit
one of the interns was stoking the embers in the fireplace

one was burrowing her face in Martha's immaculate bush
and one was singing the day's numbers:

Martha Stewart Living
Omni
           Omnimedia Inc Inc Inc!
Novemmmmmmmber Twenty-Two, Two Thousand and
      Thirteen
3.44 + .04
(1.18%)
open o PEN open 3.41
hiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh 3.45
l-ah-ooow 3.36
volume ume ume volUME 135,119
average volume 305,000
maaaaaaaarket cap 323.5 miiiiiillllllllllllllioooooooooon

"Maybe now isn't a good time," I said quietly
        and exited habited.

...

Leslie Allison is doing at least three things in the absolutely delightful romp Martha.  Today's book of poetry wishes we were better equipped to tell you exactly what they are.  We aren't.

So we'll stick to what we know and why we do like Martha.  How could you not?  Martha vibrates with a boisterous brio, it almost hums in your hands as you read it.

- - -

Dear Diary:
I can hear Kate's blood through vines overheard, I can hear the
     moon in the bed.
Three bodies are masts and the dog ate through the crotch of three
      pairs of my underwear.
The moon smokes through Kate. Did she call them panties?
Three masts are smoke on the dog.

that night, I saw myself
walking through the desert

I was hanging there, being mildly amused
cheeks warming up, crotch turning violet
the disembodied eyes in front of me
their waves growing darker and darker blue

I think it stopped being consensual when Martha got in there
up to her elbow
her ruched gloves stretched taut
she said she needed a wet brush for the waves
more like a give to it
more like a torn wake

...

Today's book of poetry would give away almost all the Crying Charlie's in our possession to see the look on Martha S's face as she read this fawning and fabulous fantasy ode.  We would hope she'd keep it next to her pillow.

Leslie Allison's first chapbook is a stunner.

Leslie Allison
Leslie Allison
Photo: Mekko Harjo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leslie Allison is a writer and performer. She composes choral music for performance collaborations with Francis Weiss Rabkin. Her dance and poetry criticism can be found in HTML Giant and The Brooklyn Rail, and her band Cross released its debut album, It's Curtains, earlier this year. Martha (Spring 2015, Ugly Duckling Press) is her first chapbook.

BLURB
If you hear yourself morosely whispering I’d really hoped there’d be more stoner girls slaying the ghosts of the patriarchy here just as you are stepping out of the shower on a dark wintry morning, cheer up, help is at hand! Here, in this little book, Martha Stewart has joined up with a wave or weave of beautiful peonies opening our decorous and sullen heart-minds into the pure pleasures of an altered universe: plural, funny, sexy, bright and animate. Leslie Allison has made a new room for poetry, a hologram of a corner shimmering where no corner exists. Enter, bring a towel, or not!
     - Ann Lauterbach


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