A Slice of Cherry Pie, Ivy Alvarez
(The Private Press, 2006) pb 18 pp
We Don't Stop Here, Ivy Alvarez
(The Private Press, 2008) pb 20 pp
I never got around to watching Twin
Peaks; some of those who did inform me that I should count that as a loss. Having
been entertained and intrigued by Mulholland Drive, I am prepared to agree with
them. These two elegant little chapbooks are anthologies which respond to those two
creations of David Lynch. Not only have they both been edited by Ivy Alvarez, but there
are a few poets who are represented in both collections. The contributors come from at
least three continents, and give the impression of belonging to some loose cyber-community
which is perhaps more important than old-fashioned geography in forming their culture and
informing their interaction. This is one unambiguously positive aspect of the post-modern
world as it impacts on poetry: that a combination of technology, talent and shared
interest can not only unite creative people, but can shape what they create.
In the end, of course, whatever
its origins, poetry has to stack up as poetry. The real test here is the impact these
poems will have on readers who are not familiar with the TV series or the film. For that
reason I started with A Slice of Cherry Pie (tackling dessert first, as it were).
This is a mixed bag. Some of the shorter pieces are a bit too glibly
"enigmatic", and cleverness (as might be expected from Lynch fans) abounds,
sometimes to the detriment of a deeper poetic engagement. I was surprised to find as much
use of rhyme as I did, although I would have thought that those who deliberately
appropriated such a pre-modern technique might have done more interesting and challenging
things with it. Siobhan Logan gets a swinging combination of rhythm and diction going in
"Traffic Light Girls", but lets it dissipate.
I found the pieces by Jared
Leising and Eileen Tabios passed my test easily, and the longer "syawlA tsurt a eulc
morf retuo .ecaps" by Emilie Zoey Baker, while ultimately dependent on the reader
knowing the characters referred to, contains some excellent lines. Collin Kelley's
"Sometimes Her Arms Bend Back" captures a dark edginess which obviously inhabits
Twin Peaks, but it is inferior to his "Go Somewhere With Me", with
which the other collection opens.
We Don't Stop Here
appealed to me the more of the two books, but it is difficult to decide how much this
preference was dictated by my familiarity with the movie which gave rise to the anthology.
The complexity and skill with which Mulholland Drive was crafted, and the way it
operates on a number of levels, are echoed not only in Kelley's poem, but also in
"Lip-Synching", by Juliet Cook, a poem which, despite the unevenness of its
control of language, includes some memorable lines, such as:
- with her finger too slinky to be
- with her finger too numb to get
- with her head too small for her
and a use of occasional
asymmetric rhyme which, together with the carefully spaced repetitions of key words, gives
it a fascinating texture.
The poem which keeps me going
back most keenly, however, is Emily Zoey Baker's "No Hay Banda, There is No
Band". Baker has a keen ear for nuanced language, and a rare ability to extract large
amounts of significance from the juxtaposition of apparently simple words and phrases. The
third stanza is worth quoting in full:
- Sunshine arrives;
- she's a blonde.
- Rita is in the shower,
- Hayworth is on the wall.
- Betty is as sweet as a peach.
One, admittedly minor, thing
that appeals to me about this piece (and others of Baker's that I've read) is that she can
achieve her effects without abandoning immaculate punctuation. Don't you just love that
semicolon at the end of the first line above? The ending of this poem is perhaps a bit
pat, but that might be considered in keeping with the sensation of having tied together
all the strands of as complex a narrative as that of Mullholland Drive.
Both these chapbooks are gems.
The concept behind them was daring; it could so easily have flopped, or (almost as bad)
succeeded as a kind of creative writing course exercise. They have been stylishly produced
and it is good for an old-fashioned book lover like me to have their contents plucked from
the paperless realms.