Three disc golf discs, a fillet knife, a bill for salt, and an eggshell book arrived at my door. On the cover a blue goat. I was skeptical/green-eyed, but also glimmed a glow—the book obviously cared for/handmade and who here doesn’t respect a literary artifact? The book is titled The Feeling is Mutual. Written by The Washtenaw County Women’s Poetry Collective & Casserole Society (Amy Berkowitz, Beth Divis, Emma Gorenberg, Elisa McCool & Jessica Young). What in the blar is the WCWPCCS? And where is my casserole?
A true sense of collaboration. A gathering and letting go. None of the poems or recipes has bylines. Possibly penned by any of the WCWPCCS or by all or by their mysterious “appearances by” friends or by the goat tied to the persimmon tree down by the bass pond. (The authors say themselves: “We no longer recognize our own words.”)
The ingredients of this poetic porringer?
(ALMOST) SONNETS, SPOOKLES, QUESTIONS & ANSWERS, RETELLINGS, CASSEROLES
There is a patented capsule of nitrogen inside my bottle of Guinness. It looks like a toy submarine (the type you could once find in cereal boxes and fill with baking soda). The capsule clatters around inside the bottle, but also releases nitrogen that agitates the previously dissolved CO2 and this makes for a clean, creamy, immortal pour and a head like the caps of waves washing upon the shore of Innisfree. That’s a lot of wonk-science (like $13 million worth) for a fucking beer, but then again this is Guinness.
This is a fine book. I mean the real deal. Let’s begin with the (almost) sonnets.
THE FEELING IS MUTUAL
First fold the notebook paper over and over. Then
crumple it. No longer for writing, it will take on a softness
like when a cat pretends to be human. The feeling is mutual.
Skateboarding came from surfing. I came from wherever you were last.
So I’m like a newer, cooler version of you with wheels, basically.
And we have the same shirt that turns colors when you touch it,
and never the same color twice. We lament, make handprints
only to see them fade within minutes of pressing
our feet to the forest of awakening where I am a yard snake,
and you are the sweat glands of a beautiful girl.
But what I originally wished for was a beautiful girl
in her entirety, i.e. including tits. Instead, I buy shirts for men I don’t have,
gauge telephone poles with both hands as if they were necks.
Playful, witty, crafty, serious–you can expect the same from the other “sonnets.” And I admire a poem that rescues itself. The laments and awakening almost drown this poem in its own self (sort of like Lebron James did last night in a TV special devoted entirely to Lebron James…but I digress), but these verses are quickly rescued by an extended simile of skateboard, that perfect ending line, and of course tits.
Upon pour, a beerfall (that is a waterfall of beer) funnel of bubbles and foam spirit up from the bottom, spiral out and form a perfect head, absolute dairy cream, with a stout, dark, roasted aroma. The color matches exactly the interior of a coal shaft. Look at those bubbles roll through the glass like a voice awakening you from the sleep of your life. Ah, Guinness…poetry.
In a field of blond wheat, who needs
Or we could leap to:
your name wrong but I’m not sorry,
since you were kind of a dick
when you shot that clay pigeon I loved
every loaf of bread you bake
your handprint is hidden inside.
That is a beautiful idea. I’m serious, and sad I have to say I’m serious (this ironic age–everyone’s clever nowadays, etc.). I am getting a wonderful Gary Snyder feel from these (almost) sonnets, a little smudge of Brautigan (always this wistful sadness) and then some Emily Dickinson and a shake of Wendell Berry and a wicked-ass dose of Lorrie Moore…wow. That is a casserole.
Guinness has a dark, hoppy, and smooth flavor, not so unlike the skin of sweaty love-making on the front-seat of a Dodge truck in a Memphis garage, if you ever get so lucky. Guinness has very little carbonation. Don’t complain. Carbonation would diffuse the taste of Guinness, and you don’t want that. You don’t need your Guinness to vapor up and scuttle away. You want it to build a lean-to on your tongue.
But what the hell is a SPOOKLE? This:
You never pet my shins. Seriously.
I wager my elbows
Billows boggles two goats. No matter, no matter.
Why that burnt aftertaste? Does Guinness age a certain % of the beer? They officially won’t say, because everyone loves a mystery, especially beer drinkers. Nature is mysterious. We are of it and separate. This causes a tension. These poems pick at that tension. HuMan, our handprint/smudge in the homemade bread of this whole natural world…
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
…and pigeons crafted of glass. I asked: how could they flap their wings without shattering?
Who will take me to the emergency room?
Can you name more than six flowers?
You going to stop me?
What’s in that volcano over there?
So much play, so much play. This book makes me think and smile. I like the way most of these poems made me pause. That’s a good thing. That’s a good thing. These poets are trying to show you something important to them, a way of being and then just the images themselves: the “small rustle of dresses in a dark closet” or “lint and string and dusty nickels” or “The sponge in the soap in the char on the pan.” I think poetry is meant to preserve a moment, and in that preservation to make it something different, longer-lasting, more (I suppose this is like canning, but let’s not force a metaphor). These poems are trying to contain something. You can feel the intent and verve stirring beneath them. I want to say they are the surface of a pond. Or the roof of a tin love shack in the woods on Friday evening. So much going on, going on inside each poem. So much energy.
Titles such as SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON: CRACKER TIN and ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET: I HATE MILK and THE ODYSSEY: WINDOW
Fresh, smart, reliable, often juxtaposing contemporary speech/ideas off legendary or historical. An individual always inside these larger worlds. Witty and grave. Pointed and flowing.
CASSEROLES is a list of recipes, what did you think? This includes enchilada lasagna and a kick-ass mac and cheese, though no nachos.
I don’t know why I was green-eyed when I first saw this book, but I am now full of hot red pepper flakes and cold brass tokens and bonfires and ice-box pie and casserole left out and soap and goats and herons and malt liquor and FUCK YOU YOLK! and crumble equations and stars and blackberry bramble and cherry stems and spookles and I would sure like to share a Guinness with these women of the Washtenaw County Women’s Poetry Collective and Casserole Society. They would drink that Guinness, drink it well, and they would spin all kinds of stories, I can just tell. They are pretty amazing. These poems the same. They seem a way of living, or of trying to live:
I will dance until my legs don’t remember
how to make the non-dancing shape.