Tender Data. Monica McClure. Birds, LLC. Austin, Minneapolis, New York, Raleigh. 2015.
Because we haven't had a "list" poem in a while and because you all know how much Today's book of poetry loves a good list poem, we are going to start off today with a hummer.
Monica McClure is a poetry assassin of the highest order. Her aim is perfect and she is packing some serious heat. There is very little tender in Tender Data but it is all heart.
Monica, vain as two crystals in a window
Monica, proportionate face like a student drawing
Monica, passable body like a non-celebrity
Monica, competing affects getting crossed
Monica, languid like a tranquilizer napping in the sun
Monica, sensitive like an artist coming to terms with failure
Monica, signing over her paltry assets
Monica, sleazy like the nouveau riche
Monica, watching herself while watching you
Monica, like a summer in the shade of a factory
Monica, editorial like the ego ideal and like the ideal ego
Monica, effusive like alka seltzer
Monica, blushing like purple areola
Monica, disarming like a borderline
Monica, free as a stolen mink
Monica, steadfast as scotch from an Islay faraway
Monica, lost like a puppy in an undertow
Monica, like lambs in a cavern
Monica, like grey birds aerial diving
Monica, broken like tea leaves in the hand of Jack the Ripper
Monica, in love for the empire and courtly manners
Monica, menstruating with endless iron
Monica, like a truck full of hoop skirts
Monica, sculptural with Debuffet's dirty pick
Monica, saintly fallopian tubes butterflying
Monica, easy like a promise to make
Monica, sluggish as the mind in conversation with itself
Monica, kissing deep a plum cooled on mint
Today's book of poetry had to read Tender Data over several sessions simply because the book got too hot to handle. These pages burn. McClure absolutely never lets up on the gas.
McClure is fresh, these poems as crisp as new snow, and at the same time these poems know things that only a certain kind of experience reveals. McClure sounds like she's read everything you've read and then a lot you haven't. How did she get so wise?
Then we have to deal with the title poem, her opus, "Tender Data", Oh my, oh my. What wondrous thing is this? Monica McClure's long poem "Tender Data" is surgery with an emotional laser and she lays it all open.
"You don't have the guts for me
Why people do evil is
the only question worth asking"
Think Hunter S. Thompson and Erica Jong having a love child devoted to poetry and writing a new feminist manifesto for a new order. No prisoners taken here. McClure isn't afraid of anyone or anything.
Today's book of poetry would absolutely love to show you the entire poem but the length of the poem precludes inclusion. But take our word for it - McClure is staking out territory with fierce intent.
The Chateau Marmont in winter
is like a beautiful woman in the morning
on the second day of her period
It's a body rejecting its implants
Lindsay Lohan is walking around
like she owes the place
sliding into the darkest seat
with two lesbian truckers
I'm sipping an Italian aperitif
and feeling exuberant
like it's the 20th century
and a love sick Breton is whispering
messages on my answering machine
in an empty antechamber
while I check my powder on my iPhone
When I lost my academic job
I became an unskilled sex worker
and got pregnant out of professional frustration
My mother drove me to a midwife
in the first light of morning
Lazy Susans on the table spin me
another cold highball
Today's book of poetry regular morning read was a fiasco. The women in our office insisted they do all the reading this morning. Kathryn, our new intern, must have used the word "empowering" at least seven times. She gave all us men the stink-eye more than once.
Tender Data is powerful stuff and it is gloriously relentless. McClure struts with her time on stage because she can and we all reap the rewards.
White Girl Wasted
There's nothing inherently noble about work
At New York Dolls I could choose to sit
and let men buy my drinks
instead of hauling ice buckets
of champagne across the mainstage floor
I didn't make money when I got drunk
instead of getting men drunk
but I was not cold or sober either
My heels dangled from the bar stool
as I watched the engorged breasts of girls
tremble in the arcade-like wavelengths
weightless and bovine
A happy couple stumbled in and soon
the wife was throwing up
in our dressing room
We held her hair back
careful not to drop ashes
in her shiny blowout
I was Kathy Acker in the 80s
doing nothing exceptional yet everything
in a corset without muscles
Her husband had paid for two hours upstairs
and was up to his watches in flesh
You girls are mistaken I said
to seduce this stupid city
Then I went home no richer or poorer
than when I showed up
I wish I could get shit-faced wasted
on my own dime
and have someone I trust carry
me screaming and drooling into a taxi
I think of the words of Anastasia
the fat ballerina of the Bolshoi
"I'm going to fuck the shit out of this world."
Goodnight swans on your lakes of vodka
Today's book of poetry puts Monica McClure at the top of whatever list I'm making today, she should be on the top of whatever list you are making. Tender Data will make you love poetry in whole new way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Monica McClure is a write and performer living in New York City. Previously, her poetry has been published in the chapbooks, Mood Swing (Snacks Press, 2013) and Mala (Poor Claudia, 2014).
McClure may be the poster-girl for a new generation of poets: irreverent, well-read, sexy, even dirty, snarky, but ultimately fighting an earnest battle against reductiveness and easy answers to the complex problems of the Internet age: "Every citizen of this world is on trial/ I'm learning to speak legalese/ as I stroll through civil law like/ a gamine through a sample sale."- Craig Morgan Teicher, NPR
Word Warriors: Monica McClure
Video: The Huffington Post
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