By the Slice
Contributors: Amy Berkowitz, Jennifer Jackson Berry, Sarah A. Chavez, Marissa Crawford, Carrie Hunter, Becca Klaver, Courtney Marie, Carrie Murphy, Alexandra Naughton, Alina Pleskova, Jaclyn Sadicario, Nicole Steinberg, Zoe Tuck
Spooky Girlfriend Press, August 2014
22 pages / $8 Buy from Spooky Girlfriend Press
There is a lot of pizza in this anthology. That’s obvious given the title, but poetry and pizza aren’t always thought of on the same wavelength. Poetry is serious, its nouns get capital letters, it explores deep and dark life mysteries through the brilliance of language, or something like that. Pizza is a delicious food. More than that, pizza is a cultural signifier of everything fast, cheap, and delicious about American culture. Pizza is just one huge carb covered in more carbs. It’s one of the greatest foods we have. But what’s so interesting about this anthology is how easily these poems break down the binary between high and low, pizza and poetry, and presents a group of texts that make fuzzy the boundaries between them. The fatty delicious pizza contrasts nicely with the self-serious reputation of poetry and mixes on the palate to create this new thing, this pizza poem.
It’s safe to say that the line between high and low culture has always been an issue with poetry. The dominant poetic culture is constantly wiggling back and forth between these two poles. The argument comes in different a form with new jargon every decade or so but it’s always along the same lines: low culture is bad and crass, high culture is good and uplifting. Or, low culture is emblematic of the real lives of humans while high culture is elitist and closed off. It may seem obvious that an anthology dealing entirely with pizza would skew strongly in favor of the low, and it really does in a lot of ways, but almost all of these poems deal with subjects worthy of any Serious Poet. There is plenty of fun and humor moving its way through here, but it isn’t a humor anthology. Instead, it’s an anthology that combines pizza-fueled jokes with sincere meditations on what it means to be a depressed person or what a local pizza joint can mean to family.
The very first poem in this collection lays out this high/low distinction and sets the tone for what follows. “Pizza v. Theory” by Amy Berkowitz and Zoe Tuck seems like the perfect poem to begin a pizza poem anthology, one that takes serious the idea of being very unserious. It says, “I am trapped inside a pizza with no hope of escape, / Except for Theory.” It is interesting how theory gets its nice capital “T” here, giving it a sense of importance, but also mocking its self-importance. It continues,
But theory won’t hear me. It’s big, hairy.
Its hair feels spiky if you pet it the wrong direction.
The problem is knowing which direction is right, given
That Mission is that way and this is Valencia and the toilets
At the BART stop always face west.
September 19th, 2014 / 10:00 am