Girl’s Guide to Giving Head and The Sweet Taste of Lightning

I’m no traditionalist when it comes to poetry. I’m even fond of unconventional ambiguity in verse where literal permutations of words such as “moo” to “mute,” are allowed to carry a poem from point A to point B. But, Sheri-D Wilson’s two latest collections of poems, Girl’s Guide to Giving Head and The Sweet Taste of Lightning (both from Arsenal Pulp Press) are disappointing attempts at poetic innovation.

Both the presumably compelling girl-rage content and the form of written “spoken word,” incited little emotion-after all what’s a good book without a feeling?-and no sense that language is used thoughtfully. Wilson’s melodramatic technique, which she repeats in almost all her poems, is to empower her speaker in a kind of self-screaming match/ half-feminist rant on the page (the speaker is always a daredevil, always a sexpot, always in-your-face) emphasizing demanding/proclaiming her right to speak.

However, little of the content of the writing works actively to tackles issues of feminist identity. For example, in both volumes of poetry, Wilson alludes to Jerard Fimski, Frank Jankovich, and Laura Fariwell, three gender-problematic writers of the past. Presumably, her poetic efforts to grapple with these dominating male presence might be attempts to topple the suffocating male “I” in poetry, but instead the poems, whose forms are derived from the whimsical and improvisational tactics ones of these male predecessors, sound oddly eulogistic, and we’re left to ask what is her relationship to these writers?

One might say, then, that Wilson closely mimics, the female/feminist Beat poet who is famous for her performative lyric, but Wilson’s poetry, in its overly didactic nature, lacks emotional subtlety. The over-ripe, uninteresting bland images (“Mud Flap Man let his bone-head brain explode”) and rhymes (where “Birkenstocks” is clumsily coupled with “laptops”) only demonstrate that sometimes spoken word is better left spoken.

To top it off, there are too many poems with faux-philosophical closure as in “Belle Is the Painkiller,” a narrative poem about a girl who gets addicted to the high of prescription medication. The last line asks the stale, rhetorical question, “How much will we withstand, before we kill our pain?”

If you’re looking for a good true feminist girl-hero, stick to the taut poetics of Adrienne Rich and the stellar lyrics of Katy Barows.

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