In her second collection, Patricia Lockwood brings to the table a feast of strangeness, abhorrence, and humor packaged together in such a way, the reader has to take his time to digest each course.
The book opens with poems that almost make you believe Lockwood is trying to distance her words from readers. With titles like “Is Your Country a He or a She in Your Mouth” and “The Whole World Gets Together and Gangbangs a Deer,” it is easy to see how some might turn away before reading on, but that would be a mistake. Lockwood thrives on understatement and dry humor. The strangeness that follows is merely a vehicle to draw the reader closer into the work.
In “Nessie Wants to Watch Herself Doing It,” she uses the mythical Loch Ness Monster to discuss sexuality, spirituality, and free thought:
I will be different there,
she thinks, with a powerful wake ahead of me.
When will the thinkers come for me. Visited only
here by believers. Is so deep-sea-sick of believers.
When will the thinkers come for here, where
the green stretches out before me, and I am my own
Lockwood has a devout Twitter following, most would say brought to her in the publication wake of “Rape Joke,” her poignant poem that addresses the absurdity of a joke being made of a heinous crime of both physical and psychological violence. The poem appears a little over midway through the collection to grab the reader’s throat, leaving slight bruising and the inability to speak for a few moments afterward:
Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.
Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends —
haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke
for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.
The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.
The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.
The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really.
Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds.
Come on, that’s a little bit funny.
The poem “Why Haven’t You Written” keeps to Lockwood’s style of understatement. Near the end of the piece, the speaker addresses the reader — the other half of an ended relationship — directly, displaying a challenging tone, while still reaching for closure:
Most letters were love letters until they were not.
That was when the mail began to change —
and “enveloped,” the only word that was believed
to contain its meaning, was opened and found to be
empty. Back then it meant something when my letter
never arrived, and now after ten years reaches you,
who are dead or in love with a lookalike, or so full
of hate for me that you can barely see to read this.
For me, Lockwood represents what’s to come of poetry. She’s modern in her language, but like all writers, she’s transcribing the same themes and ideas that have been here since we’ve been here.