Bec & Call. Jenna Lyn Albert. Nightwood Editions. Gibsons, British Columbia. 2018.
Jenna Lyn Albert is going to blow the lid off of it all. Today's book of poetry is sending out our crack team of researchers, we want to confirm Albert's birthplace, birth date. Why? These are otherworldly poems of screech and joy.
We love this stuff.
Bec & Call has just the right amount of brio and just the right portion of brash.
Actually we suspect that Albert might buckle and baulk at both "brio" and "brash." Both wildly insufficient words - so Today's book of poetry will try again. Jeanna Lyn Albert's Bec & Call is beautifully raw and raggedly precise. These are gems cut from rough stuff and Today's book of poetry couldn't be happier.
One and Only: A One-Night Stand
I cabbed over to your bachelor, hair braided and in a low-cut
black dress without the emotional support of a bra, wind-
shield wipers pleating November rain like a ballerina skirt.
You paid my fare when I got there, glowering from behind
thick-rimmed glasses as I took my time getting out.
Janis Joplin called Pigpen "Daddy," but it doesn't sit right
with me. I'd barely made it through the door before you
thumbed my thong to the freshly-shaved bikini line, using
a wet finger like a weather vane to test the direction this
was going, canoodling my mouth inelegantly: tongue al dente.
We got as far as the couch—did you even own a proper bed?—
my swollen tonsils fighting against your hand at my throat
(we'd established choke-play as okay) but my stomach rolled
as ferociously as my eyes when you called me your little slut.
I returned the insult with insolence and you red-handed my ass.
We talked about your job afterword's, how you got to Freddy,
my Santa Sangre lipstick matted into your stubble, your pores
like dried blood from a shoddy shave job. I forgot my cardigan,
you'd said, and I forgot your number on the cab ride home,
avoiding eye contact with the same driver who'd driven me over.
Jenna Lyn Albert simply doesn't care, she'll say the fearless thing and then back up her play. Our morning read was hysterical. Not only does Albert's Bec & Call cut the heads off of some chickens, she barn dances 'em right into the pan.
Today's book of poetry simply loved how much fun Albert has in these poems, and you will too. Deadly, heart-wrenching, and funny like Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, just asked me who Red Skelton was. Kathryn is now glued to You Tube watching old bits with Clem.
So, funny like Robin Williams, if he were an Acadian feminist poet.
Today's book of poetry wants to quote Zoe Whittall's blurb from the back of Bec & Call, where she simply states "I love these poems." Because Whittall echoes our own sentiments exactly. In our office we always do a blind taste test with books that knock us out. Bec & Call scored abnormally high on our test.
There have been many fine poets to come out of New Brunswick, remember this is the province that gave us Sir Alden the Nowlan. Gallant knight of the poetry realm. But Albert just might be the best thing to come out of New Brunswick since. She's dirty witty and some smart.
Bec & Call
Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir? Non, merci.
Note to self: abstain from sharing French origins
with men at Dolan's or Callaghan's or Cougar's—
any dive bar this far from Kouchibouguac. Shediac.
Bouctouche. This much I can deduce. Yes, my lips
are the colour of cabernet: sashay away. I'm throwing
enough shade to eclipse Jupiter's moons. I will drop
you like Pluto's relationship status: Solar. Sole. Single.
Ask me if I can French kiss and I'll flood your mouth
with marmalade. Memere always had Crosby's fancy
molasses in the cupboard despite years of factory-floor
labour. Arthritic hands squeeze Honey Bear nectar
into my little bird mouth. Ask me again, and I'll regurgitate
thick, brown sugar down your throat until it overflows.
Blackstrap is rich, snarky syrup. Kiss and tell yourself
that it's mutual. Mutiny. You were never any good
at differentiating desire from just plain fucking tired.
The women's washroom is stained chatterbox pink,
suckulent scarlet, lewd lavender. The contoured
impressions of pursed lips pressed to Winter White
Benjamin Moore paint are more artful than the Sharpied
proverbs customary of bathroom stalls. I study the curves
of each kiss: Cupid's bows bent with pouts flavoured
like circus concessions. Bubble gum. Cotton candy.
The artificial cherry syrup pumped over snow cones.
Today's book of poetry does not share Jenna Lyn Albert's fascination with cats, we would argue that only a superior skill set (along with Jenn Huzera like tolerance) could carry a feline to the end of a poem and still have my attention. But damn it all anyway, Albert catnipped Today's book of poetry with her poetry wiles.
Albert arrives fully formed and boiling over. These are energetic poems full of colour and cynical contempt. They are also flavoured with candy floss lipstick and kisses so hard your lips will bleed, and the smell of the sea will seep into your brain, and not always the good smell.
Cream cheese and maraschino cherry pinwheels add
colour to the reception platter, pyramid-piled amid
tuna and egg salad sandwiches, pates spread on
"wholesome" whole wheat bread, crustlessly cut
into squares as small as this church basement feels.
Clear plastic cups and cutlery start off the banquet
table, fruit punch and soda tie-dying the white
tablecloth—the drops of juice blooming on cotton
like sympathy flowers. A great-auntie, or is that
a cousin, butts in line to grab a napkin, feigning
obliviousness, like the driver who merged into our
funeral procession, a deer in hazard lights turning
tail as soon as possible and failing to be inconspicuous.
Under fluorescent lighting, Dad's flask gleams
discernibly and no sermon'll guilt him today: an open
casket warrants an open bar, in his opinion, and I'm
hard-pressed to disagree. We're all brought into this
world with finger foods and it's how we'll all go out.
If books like this Bec & Call bundle of miscreant joy arrived at Today's book of poetry every day our job would be a lot easier.
Like Zoe Whittal loves these poem, Today's book of poetry loves these poems. So does Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, Maggie, our new intern, loves these poems. Freida and Tomas visited today and loved these poems.
Jenna Lyn Albert is going on our list.
Jenna Lyn Albert
ABOUT THE AUTHORJenna Lyn Albert is a poet of Acadian decent and a recent graduate in creative writing from the University of New Brunswick. Her writing has appeared in The Malahat Review, Riddle Fence and The Puritan. Albert lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where she is an editorial assistant at The Fiddlehead and poetry editor of Qwerty.
"I love these poems."
- Zoe Whittall
Bec & Call's elliptical contemplations are both almanac and road map for contemporary New Brunswick. Albert is eyes open in her search for raw experience, buried light.
- Tammy Armstrong
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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