Dessa’s poetry weighs heavy as a “Pound of Steam”
Dessa is a rapper, poet and essayist. She is the only woman involved with the Hip Hop group Doomtree.
Not to mention she’s one badass boss babe.
Her chapbook, A Pound of Steam was published in 2013 and is her newest poetry publication. (It’s preceded by Spiral Bound.) You don’t have to read her poetry to realize that Dessa is not only an expert penwoman, but that she also has serious truth to spit. If reading isn’t your thing, all you have to do is play one of her songs — any one of her songs — to see that her insights are valuable, and even the ugliest of realities, she explains oh, so beautifully.
A couple of the poems, like “The Clowns New Wife” and “Kept Company” are longer than the others with a narrative voice. Both poems seem to flow back and forth between poetry and prose as you read them.
In “Kept Company” she writes in the voice of a young girl’s imaginary friend. (So fucking cool! Come on, we all had one.) Aside from being intrigued by the idea to write a poem in that way, I love how her short stanzas compliment her more prosaic ones.
(stolen from her mother’s purse)
are long and light, all filter.
Barely real themselves.”
This brief stanza follows a longer one that describes the speaker’s current relationship with the girl, which is now, just barely connected by a “force of waning will.” I love the juxtaposition of the “barely real” cigarettes with the imaginary friend that’s slowly fading away. A tragic and accurate depiction of growing up.
Another poem that intrigued me, with a message that’s scratching at the surface for air, is the first one featured. “Dear Sir or Madam,” begins the book by presenting the reader with a pound of steam. The voice of this poem is very short, the speaker very blunt and, maybe even business-like. It’s as if, as the reader, you are queued, waiting in line for your turn. Following a couplet, the second stanza reads:
“You’ll be given a numbered pound of steam
and a tool which may reveal its purpose to you
in which case it is a handweight.
Please mind it,
we regret that we cannot issue another
in the event that you misplace it.”
The lines may be cut, but the rhythm is held together by subtle internal rhymes. It looks like poetry, but look a little closer and it could be more like prose. When you read it and realize there’s a rhythm it surprises the reader, who can’t help but be charmed by the clever voice of the speaker. That’s the style I usually strive for, at least by default.
Indulge your brain today, order a copy of A Pound of Steam. Let Dessa’s words sink heavy in your thoughts. I promise, they’ll leave a mark.
Originally published at Giuliana Grossi.