On November 1, I had the good fortune to attend the book launch for Marty McConnell’s WIne for a Shotgun, her first collection from EM Press. Marty is a well-known performance poet, slam winner, community leader, and all-around fabulous person. (You can get all the details here.) I finally had the chance to sit down and read the book thoughtfully from cover to cover and…damn. Marty’s work shows off both music and muscle, moments both tender and tough, and the speakers in her poems (whether autobiographical or mythologized personae) pull no punches. There are several poems in the book based on the Tarot, and also a series of poems that begin with “fidelity” in their titles. “The Fidelity of Disagreement” is one of my favorites in the book, and you can pop over here to read it.
See what I mean? I love the unraveling of the poem, the conceit of telling the reader that there are seven kinds of loneliness and then taking five stanzas to delineate the first kind in the list, setting up the other seven as surprises tucked into tight bundles of language, each opening to reveal something new. The surprising takes on domestic images ( the shoes “panting in the closet” and “a kitchen where the overhead light/sighs into a dim, the spoons tuck/their worn faces away”) are most welcome, and the compassion for the lost characters who populate the day (the man who stares at the schoolgirl on the train, the local crackhead, the men who circle the unemployment office) is evident. But the speaker also has compassion for herself, reminding all of us that we have “time for mistakes” even after listing some of her own perceived failings. There is music here and surprise and tenderness and despair – in other words, there is life.
You can hopefully read more of Marty’s work by finding her book here. Better yet, go to the website link at the top of the post and see if Marty is coming to read in your town. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to write:
1. Marty names seven kinds of loneliness in her poem. Choose another emotion and delineate seven different kinds of __________________. (despair; joy; disappointment; you choose!)
2. Use the highly evocative line “I have a bird behind each knee” as a starting place for a new poem.