Review: Price Reduced Again

Julie Buffaloe-Yoder
Poetry
48 pages
5 ½” x 8 ½” chapbook
Shoots and Vines
c/o Backpack Press
Poseyville, Indiana
$8
Review originally published on 2/4/10


Julie Buffaloe-Yoder is a soul. Not a sad someone or one who passes through life littering the way with fairy dust or glitter or good intentions, but someone who lives in the real world among us, someone who breathes and loves and creates. She is a soul, and an open one on these pages, where she rings out the anthems of the working class to write the poems for our age, full of the dustbowl desperation of great depressions juxtaposed with the innocent hope of happiness. These pages are ruined with everything that should make us want to hang ourselves, and yet the glimmer between the cracks makes us happy we’re alive and tasting one more day, surrounded by the ones we need, and able to relish the memories we have of the people and places we’ve loved, even if they were only ours for a short while.

Yes, Julie’s lighthearted words are not to be taken lightly, as they echo our time and setting — speaking of politics, foreclosures, unemployment, hard times for family and friends, tales we all know as we reach a flatline in the middle of a deep recession — with a crisp sincerity and a tongue-in-cheek sense of equally hopeful and hopeless sarcasm. I really love her writing, and there is very little else to say. She is just so real, so with it; such a powerful voice for women and the underdog and our generation and poetry, in general.

Some of my favorite examples:

In trying to find someone to purchase her home — a beloved old farmhouse with lots of memories — Julie touches on very small, personal details that make the foreclosure all the sadder in “Price Reduced (Again)”:

[ … ]
Five pets died and now lay
beneath yellow bell bushes.
Please buy them all.
[ … ]

The sadness is there … but so is the please; the hope for something better to come along; the gee yeah, I know it’s not a lot, but it’s something; the dark humor. And Julie has the perfect bittersweet humor, which makes it equally as enjoyable as it is hard to read her words of desperation, such as these, from “She Told Me Money Does Not Buy Happiness, Then She Hopped In Her BMW And Drove Away”:

Money does not buy happiness.
But it does buy a house,
[ … ]
A bra not held together
with safety pins.
[ … ]
It buys a life where you
have so much dignity
you walk by
a fountain of coins
and have no desire
to dive in.
[ … ]

Julie is a master of capturing the individual places and people of the Midwest, the small pockets of Americana, the pride in the faces and the pain in the backs, the differences of class and privilege from the points of view never heard on Entertainment Tonight.

From “They Call Her Lucy”:

[ … ]
But Lucinda was born
in Wake County, USA.
She speaks Spanish
for the same reason
I speak with
a Southern drawl.
[ … ]

From “Millie Willis Works As A Cashier”:

[…]
So Millie Willis
sells organic food
she can’t afford
and buys blue
reduced for
quick sale chuck
at a discount store
Her support hose
keeps rolling down
on the night shift
and she listens
to tourists
come down from
their timeshares
to gripe about how
the register scanned
ten cents too much
for vanilla yogurt.
[ … ]

And Julie is also a pro at putting her own humble life in perspective, taking care to be the observer some of the time and the partaker the rest of the time, laying out her own dreams and shortcomings between the pages. From “The Ones In Front, The Ones Behind”:

[ … ]
The ones behind are
quick in the mirror,
pushing
my tail pipe.
So damn young.
So damn pretty.
The lines are not
meant for them.
They pass fast,
devouring wind,
beating me
to job interviews.
[ … ].

I could list many lines I like, but taking them out of context may not do them the justice they need. The only downfall of this book, however, is that it needs some serious editing TLC, lacking a little on the professional side. It has many of what I refer to as “hanging chads” — those little dangling single or double lines that go on to the next page that really shouldn’t … those little tabs that could cost you the vote. They don’t look clean, and they take up an entire page for a single line that fell victim to someone’s inability to squish or adjust font. There are lines that are separated from their flocks at the page turns, too. Unless a stanza goes on for more than the length of a full page, its lines shouldn’t be separated from one another within the same stanza; the whole paragraph should just go over to the next page.

These little things are easy to overlook, nonetheless, when you get a hold of Julie’s knowledgeable, charming, witty, and important words. They need no fancy cover, font, or layout to make them shine, as they speak for themselves, if ever any words could. Seriously, you must read this. I would like to buy a copy to send to every member of Congress to let them know how badly we, the People, are hurting.