Monday, June 4, 2018

The Fix — Lisa Wells (University of Iowa Press)

Today's book of poetry:
The Fix.  Lisa Wells.  University of Iowa Press.  Iowa City, Iowa.  2018


Image result for lisa wells the fix

The Fix is in.

Lisa Wells has climbed right into the poetry heart of Today's book of poetry.  Wells burns like her hands were made of matches.

Today's book of poetry did not recognize the language Lisa Wells was employing at first, some renegotiation was necessary, and it was my fault.  But Today's book of poetry did know from the very first poem in this insanely entertaining debut that it was going to require a seat-belt and helmet.

The Fix has a sureness to it, an accomplished voice, Wells gets to the heart with zest and immediately consumes the reader with her abandon fervor.  Today's book of poetry had to think about it for a minute and then it hit us.  We have only recently become aware of the superpoetry of the nurse/poet Belle Waring (Belle Waring died of cancer in 2015).  There's a zany, I don't give two shits - except that I care deeply, mantra.  A completely abandoned building sort of shouting that goes on in the poetry of Waring and Wells seems cut from the same fine cloth.

What Today's book of poetry was clumsily trying to say is that we are BIG admirers of Belle Waring and were surprised to find Lisa Wells raising the same hairs on our poetry neck.  Today's book of poetry will be looking at Belle Waring's Refuge (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990) and Dark Blonde (Sarabande Books, 1997) at some point in the near future.  The Belle Waring books arrived in our offices courtesy of our Southern Correspondent, The Twangster, reigning St. Louis Champ.  He sends regular literary "care packages."

Today's book of poetry is so happy to introduce you to the poetry of Lisa Wells we can hardly sit still in our seats.

Theory of Knowledge

Alive on the highway shoulder.
The ruddy trucker passed

tossed a can from his cab
and I scrambled to retrieve it.

Cut like a twig and titless
the boys said
bbs on a breadboard.

Crossed my arms over my chest
in the frigid stock room of the mini-mart
while a classmate donned a nylon bib
and counted my cache into his hamper.

So I whipped a boy at school with my windbreaker
and where my zipper caught his shin, he split.

Blood slipped through the fold
mercury slow.

For that, a teacher faced me toward a wall
to think about my wrongs.

I don't need a wall to know.


When Today's book of poetry tells you the Lisa Wells poems are not concerned with point of entry, they attack you like an unseen gas, impervious to detection and thoroughly effective;  you're not going to believe what will happen to you — even as it is happening.

That last sentence/paragraph will have Max, our Sr. Ed., bleeding out his eyeballs; but Today's book of poetry has learned that we have to poke the beast once in a while just to make sure he is still breathing.

Back to point of entry.  Lisa Wells is the perfect poetry assassin because these poems come at you with such humour and wit that we often don't see the big "pop-up" mallet she keeps in other hand.  The Fix is devoid of trickery, These poems come at the reader straight down the middle of the page, Lisa Wells may be the Larry Csonka* of American poetry.

*Larry Csonka played for the Miami Dolphins and is universally respected for his inside game.  Fearless and unstoppable.  "The Sundance Kid" won a couple of Superbowls and was the star running back on the only professional football team to have a full undefeated season.


I stitched my mask of hide- snout- sinew- talon- and rode
the vast savanna to war

in my former life. I was the hybrid. I sewed my brutal double-helix
     into a child

and packed her boots with greasy wool that felted as she walked in bright

stratified color. Carpathian bronze couldn't buy her off
when she leapt at the throat of my lover.

Him I called The Lion for his yawn and yellow ringlets.

I placed a Deglet date upon his tongue, I pressed
the golden scarab into amber, straddled all his lap, kissed

my cresset to the yurts of my superiors

and in this life, I think I'd like to do more damage.


Today's book of poetry thinks that Lisa Wells has a considerable reserve of grit, she knows that most injustices go unpunished and that many go unnoticed.  Wells is a reporter, and an excellent one at that, but she can't stay neutral.

Our morning read was robust to say the least with an excellent cast of characters here for the event.  Jeff popped by to measure my desk for another bookcase, at present I count something like fourteen bookcases, one-hundred and twelve shelves, in my office, but I need a couple more.  Jeff has the knowledge.  He also has a great voice and rattled off a couple of Wells poems.  Thomas was on this morning, he brought in his friends Pistol and Barb.  All three of them contributed.  The office was a busy place this morning.  

We laughed and laughed.  All complaints get sent to the fifth floor.

With Lisa Wells, no complaints at all.

"Poetry Man"

      after Phoebe Snow

To recall the cull of this life.

That one must harvest by selective annulment
the body they will wed

                     and the body they will hustle
from dress to tongue on the sly

                                           for days
I lay as a flank in my lover's maw

                      swathed in wine while warm
winds frisked the wisteria.

It was innocent.

He lashed my wrist to the mast.
He tied my blind because I wanted

to be battered in the swell
            and blossoms purple still
any place he pressed his mouth
any place

I asked for it.
By now I know, I begged:
relieve your mouth its bland aperture

Talk to me some more


Home's that place       somewhere      you go each day

in absence of his finger I have conveyed to my teeth
a relentless procession of corn chips, zoned out

on the bedroom wall.
Little my tongue does for the hole it circumnavigates.

It was a clear day, sun jigging figures from the leaves
on the alien green of College Park
              I was ocular in his arms

an enormous pupil, blown open.

     We knew the hour had come
by the way the light collected

raptured to several heavens
there's no need to choose.


If choice is obviated  "Le Paradis n'est pas artificiel"

his letter begins, anxiety of what is
in back of each long note.

He compares me to a garden.  "Why weed what winter will kill?"

Fidelity is perennial, survives the cold     cloaked as a peony.

He wishes me a grand carouse at the local dive, a dry
bottom bun for my rubber burger
and another man's sex         bashful boy.


do not touch the stove you will

fuse to its element    slaver over
the burn.             You don't have to go.

You're hiding something sweet
from this swollen thumb

and from these glossy welts derives
the suspicion that I am truly sick.

Monstrously wooed by these
reports of injury, he admits

         "its invocation of parts. You have a thumb. Eyes."

Instruments of agency.   Logic divides
pleasure from having
               give it to me

All Medea's remonstrations ended on a blade.
downed in the poisoned mug, draped in the tainted gown

but she never howled
when love departed

she muscled out to meet him.


Any of you regular readers of Today's book of poetry will know that we are always a sucker for poets who find hope.  Lisa Wells gives us renewed hope, and why not?  

This energy, zip and intelligence make for that rarest of books, can't miss poetry.  It will "muscle out to meet" you.

Burn, Lisa, Burn.

Lisa Wells


Lisa Wells is a poet and nonfiction writer who lives in Tucson, Arizona. Her work has appeared in Best New Poets, the Believer, Denver Quarterly, Rumpus, Third Coast, and the Iowa Review.

“Full and luscious as a grape before wine-making or a moon before love-making, the poems in The Fix live in a roadside space that’s earthy, sensual, erotic, and wild. Lisa Wells writes by feel, shaping, kneading, and bending the line the way a potter builds a ceramic vessel from the bottom up, coiling around a central idea until it’s solid, visible, and ready to be marveled at.”
     —D. A. Powell

The Fix is ruthless, sleepless, vigilant, obsessive: a profound work of mystery and matter, of power and pleasure, in which any singular truth is always just a step ahead, a bit beyond reach, below sight line. This new voice is so strange it sounds familiar, like family unforgivable or a lover who’s never over, or like a kind of food only grown on alien soil but that tastes disturbingly like your childhood. Here, every line is a surprise, a curve, a path this visionary poet cut just this moment for you to travel deep and emerge altered by this, her stark dark knowing. You’ll read this brilliant book again and again looking for the way back from it.”
     —Brenda Shaughnessy, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

The Fix is perfectly executed. It’s always poetry, yet it never strains to be poetry. It’s flush with nervous and yet confidently directed energy. Its most striking moments are never haphazard, but are surprising and indelible. It doesn’t read like a first book, it reads like a book for life.”
     —Shane McCrae, author, In the Language of My Captor

“Lisa Wells knows all too well that a fix is just a habitual stay against the moment’s decay, and in these corporeal poems equal parts binge and purge, one can only wonder what rough bitch slouches down low to be reborn in a Paradise as dirty and comfy as a trucker’s blown rig.”
     —Timothy Liu

Lisa Wells
reads "The End"
Video:  BitchMedia



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