Selfies with Poetry #4: Devin Devine, Evolve Benton, Dorothea Lasky, Anne Champion, & Bill Moran

Domestic & Fowl by Devin Devine


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Top Picks:  “Hera” and “Nancy Drew Hates That I Drink & Most Days, I Do Too”
Quote: “The world bloomed on our wedding day like a giant middle finger.”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Hera” and “Thirsty As A House Plant

Why You Might Like It: There’s something magical about watching slam poets perform to audiences that are engaged, captivated, interacting with the art as it’s happening in front of them. Devin Devine is a consummate performer, vibrant, alive, angry, & beatific in equal measures. Whether on page or on stage, these poems leap into life, daring you to put them down, challenging you to see them through to their conclusion. Page poets are no stranger to taking the iconography of classical mythology & using it to their own ends, but I ask you to find a poet who takes one of mythology’s most maligned goddesses—Hera—and brings her to life in a way where you as the captive audience find yourself capable  of feeling empathy, love, and compassion for her.

SIR by Evolve Benton


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Top Picks: “10 Ways to Survive as a Black Boi in Los Angeles” and “I Looked My Last Name Up on Google”
Quote: “See, I make masculinity look pretty.”
Don’t Take My Word for It: OUTList 2017BOI, and How to Be a Trans Ally: The Video

Why You Might Like It: First & foremost: Evolve Benton’s work is a celebration of queerness, blackness, and joy. That’s a rare trifecta in the world of published poetry & one that is desperately needed to help bring equity to the world of modern American poetics. Benton’s work is, at its core, an expression on their ethos of ‘boihood’: a redefinition of the traditional conception of masculinity, an interrogation of the destructive aspects of that traditionally held view of masculinity, and a tender, loving examination of the intersections of both masculinity & blackness. SIR is also focused on innovating ideas on how to reclaim the world ‘masculine’ and improve upon it, round it out, bring it a newfound beauty that the Westernized world has denied it. SIR doesn’t shy away from paying tribute to the violence, poverty, & instability of their life’s experience—but the poems of SIR reveal a resilience that’s born of hardship, proving that the reclamation of joy is the greatest triumph a boi can achieve, a call to bois to let them know that joy belongs to them, & the power to take it has always been in their hands.

Rome by Dorothea Lasky


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Top Picks: “What’s Worse,” “Diet Mountain Dew,” and “Poem to Florence”
Quote: “I watch porn / Cause I’ll never be in love / Except with you dear reader”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Kitchen Tiny TourDepression, and Five Things Right Now (Interview)

Why You Might Like It: These poems, as the title implies, are composed with a nod to the poets of Rome, like Homer, Catullus, Horace: however, these explorations are confessional, vulnerable, & bring a modern sensibility to the work. There’s a thread of heartbreak, disappointment, & hopelessness stitching together the collection, almost like a glimpse of what Plath or Sexton might have written, had they been born in a later generation. But make no mistake: the speaker of these poems isn’t asking the reader to pity them. Instead, these poems ask the reader to hold space for those kinds of feelings in their own overworked, underpaid lives, rife with everyday disappointments & small failures. Rome feels both familiar & fresh, like coming home to your teenage bedroom after having lived on your own for long enough that you with you could go backward in time.

The Good Girl Is Always a Ghost by Anne Champion


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Top Picks: “Bettie Page and the Wisdom of Old Age,” “Mississippi Goddamn, [Fill in the Blank] Goddamn,” and “Sally Ride Watches the Challenger Explode”
Quote: “Someday, this country will be a place where fire doesn’t birth cinder”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Bettie Page and the Wisdom of Old Age

Why You Might Like It: If you’re a fan of persona poems & enjoy collections like Amorak Huey’s The Insomniac Circus of Shanna Compton’s For Girls & Others, you’re the right reader for The Good Girl Is Always a Ghost—forgotten women, left behind, vilified, or their story told one-sided spring to life to give voice to the voiceless. Anne Champion is easily one of modern poetry’s most innovative, inventive, & boundary-pushing poets, using syntax as powerfully as she uses language to make each poem as unique as the woman on whom it’s centered. Easily one of the most interesting & exciting parts of the collection is the index of figures referenced throughout the poems, allowing the reader a broader context from which to approach the work, or filling in the gaps for some of the lesser-known figures, drawn from global history, mythology, culture, and lore.

Oh God Get Out Get Out by Bill Moran


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Top Picks: “Oh God Get Out Get Out,” “I Hate This Drink I’ll Have Another,” “Paw,” and “Heir Loom”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Oh God Get Out Get OutPawBill Moran Bandcamp (audio poems)

Why You Might Like It: These poems tread a fine line between prayer & exorcism—there’s elegy & dirge all mixed up with violence & vitriol. Oh God Get Out Get Out is the highest level of the sacred & profane. Some of the poems make you feel like you’re free-falling without a parachute, watching the ground rise up beneath you while taking in the breathlessness of the view before impact. They’re a punch in the face, then laughing while you spit out teeth & blood. Syntactically, Moran writes in a way that’s adventurous, disorienting, instantly recognizable, & frenetic, matching what’s happening on the page to what’s happening in the language, reflecting what’s happening in the reader’s emotions as the speaker takes you on a wild journey then pushes you from a moving car. If you like poems that rough you up to tell you they love you, Oh God Get Out Get Out should be your next pick.

Allie Marini is a cross-genre Southern writer. In addition to her work on the page, Allie was a 2017 Oakland Poetry Slam team member & writes poetry, fiction, essays, performing in the Bay Area, where as a native Floridian, she is always cold. Find her online @kiddeternity.

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