by Laura Mullen
Otis Books | Seismicity Editions 2012
80 pages / $12.95 Buy from SPD
Laura Mullen has been doing a lot of crazy things lately. And by crazy, I mean wedding-related poetry performances. She has invited her audience to cut a wedding gown off her body in many cities—Denver, Lafayette, Paris—a culturally fraught version of Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece. She has worn a wedding dress to a gulf coast oil spill protest in New Orleans. And she has re-sewn a once-cut dress into an awkward, stitched wound of a dress for her “poetry wedding” in Baton Rouge last month.
Full disclosure: I was a bridesmaid in her “poetry wedding.” And by “poetry wedding,” I mean the launch for her seventh book, Enduring Freedom. I wore a bright pink dress and, for my contribution to the ceremony, stalked around the seated audience with the poet Afton Wilky, reading/shouting out a list of operation names from the Iraq War. This list is one of the poems in Mullen’s book. When I got to “Baton Rouge,” I paused for effect. When I got to “Church,” I spoke extra loud. When I got to “Enduring Freedom,” it all made sense.
Because a wedding is a kind of war. A war is a kind of wedding. If the parallels aren’t clear yet, they will be after you read Mullen’s book. The voices in these prose poems are crazy, sad, frustrated, frugal, suffering from PTSD (of the war? of the wedding?). They are brides!
We know brides. Even if you aren’t/can’t/haven’t yet/never plan to/O yes have been a bride, you know the territory: the gown, the DIY, the invitation, the photography, the gestures, the whole commercialized industry. These poems remind us of the performance of weddings. And that tradition breeds cliché, decay. And the inauthenticity of something proclaiming its own sincerity.
But things get scarier, because a wedding is a war:
October 22nd, 2012 / 12:35 pm