“In the milky predawn, the Third World roosters start croaking as if someone were choking the new day from and I wake with a shudder. A heaviness pres“In the milky predawn, the Third World roosters start croaking as if someone were choking the new day from and I wake with a shudder. A heaviness presses down on my chest like a boot. This place isn’t some conjured-up nightmare that fades with the morning light, but it is real, and it is an island, and it is inescapable.”
If the communists weren’t going to get the Scheeres children, then the sin of the world would certainly swallow them whole. Jesus Land is the story of young David Scheeres, only narrated by his sister Julia, the author of the bleak but unbittered memoir Jesus Land. Spanning from Illinois to Escuela Caribe, an abusive faith-based work camp in the Dominican Republic, readers are introduced to holy horrors as Julia learns what a sham family can actually be, but how it can redefined and beautified by her relationship with David, her adopted African American brother.
Jesus Land is a brutally objective book, even in the face of abuse, rape, and the loss of faith. Perhaps our favorite aspect of the memoir is that the irony of what people see as a utopia founded upon children beaten is never lost on Julia. The bones of battered and broken innocents pave the way to a better world, all in the name of the highest morality. Julia’s father, a well-to-do doctor, works with religious devotion to keep injured or sick people alive by mending their bodies, only to head home to break his adopted son’s bodies (David and his equally dark and adopted brother Jerome) for any disobedience, but never for the sexual abuse Julia endures in the darkness.
A gasp of life-affirming air is all a reader wishes for through Jesus Land, and when they can catch one, it feels like salvation; then another chapter begins and new horrors emerge, but then tiny and unforgettable offerings of beauty are birthed.
Five honest stars, and I mean every damn one of them....more
FFing is a collection that could not have been written in any other time. The book is both the culmination of free love and free thought; at a time whFFing is a collection that could not have been written in any other time. The book is both the culmination of free love and free thought; at a time when the skin color of American’s has long since blurred together and both blacks and whites share last names. The book is back dropped to a country’s decade-long wars as well as to collectivized citizens fueled by antiquated faith—the same faith which gives FFing its title, Flirty Fishing, the Paulanian stance on Biblical evangelization: Evangelize, evangelize, evangelize! Women lure and flirt to get men to bite into their hooks—their bodies, but not their souls. Pious seduction makes the weakest of men faithful fishers of men. “This is power/ flirting but not fucking” (72) Good-natured Christianity teaches some ladies how to be sexy, and Meg Francis doesn’t give that dogma a moment to catch its breath as she beats it to damnation.
The narrator of Meg Francis’s collection is The Poison Sex Queen, a persona that appeared on the planet after her “sudden shedding of [her] unique organ” (23), to see the world around her in a new way as she “blooms out of reach of premature gardeners” (72). As the Poison Sex Queen leaves the “lukewarm seas” (22) of mediocre relationships in sweat-saturated sheet-less beds, she discovers that the world is in a constant rotation of ugliness and madness, while she reflects on her past, such as in “Not My Mother’s Suicide”, “Race Remix”, and “Caring for the Motherless”. The Poison Sex Queen grows into a human who still deals with the cant of her past the anti-Calvinistic appreciation of choices. “You learned how to ask rather quickly/ How fantastic/ Because I am so very sick of teaching/ Boys and men to act without shame/ (130) Both men and boys, it matter very little of the age because Meg Francis conquers the age of man’s sex.
As the first sentence said, FFing could not have been written in another time. Liberalization and progress along with economic situations keep people, no matter what color, on the streets together. But more importunately, the book could be about other location other than Texas. Meg Francis has an ear for the Southern twang and its special brand of code switching, as well as jargon and the vernacular of Southern boys driven insane by their body’s chemicals. Past patterns of speech, the state has a habit of exaggerating a writer’s rebellious mind, overhearing and capturing the lack of freedom and the repression of both society as well as the mind, but perhaps most of all, the body. Through sexual self-construction, still unable to rid her mind of indoctrinated cant—though the stance of religious faith morphs as the events in the book obviously advance with age—The Poison Sex Queen and her writer both have the luck of unluck of maturing in a nearly vibrating church pew in “Loosely Raised As A Witness”, as a young Poison Sex Queen devours the veneer of altar boys gracing a church stage. At a young age, she has already learned to love a man in uniform, which brings on a motif of the book, the American military man. With the American military man, comes his American wars.
“How Would Your Mother Feel”, “Iraq War Announcement”, “Bored Minds”, “War and Reputation” are protest poems, two words that I believe make perfect sense. Poetry has, and will always be, a protest. Though it was the first literary form and it will be the last, it’s always in rebellion against its own form, its own society. So this should make the poet a revolutionary, though not necessarily the writer. Be it a Shakespearean sonnet and its love complaints or a scattered Jazz, non-conformist poem, poetry protests mores, love, styles, grammar, and certainly current events, but most of all, poetry is a protest against the writer. A writer should always strive to be a poet. The writers of Epics dealt with more than just Romans and Greeks at war, their poetry dealt with afflictions between our souls and ourselves; how we react to the past when we know war isn’t just a screaming infant that will grow out of it, but a constant of the human condition as well as civilization. Do we face defeat and act tragically nostalgic like the Greeks or do we remain stoically Roman? Life in our post-9/11 society is more than George Bush. It could easily be more sinister, or, if one allows, simpler; either way, poetry should never consist of jokes the most witless laugh at. Poets should leave the peasantry to the pundits. For the Epics, the folly of a past leader is for overly sentimental Greeks. Tyrants and their tired politics make any current event seem a little bit more than a pit of Hell, but in the underworld Dante didn’t just concern himself with the devil. In poetry, each line should be a new. Poetry brings new philosophy, new truths, and new ideas for the everyman—rebelling against TS Eliot’s elitism, which is what Meg Francis does sexually, but not in regards to political ideas. It’s a shame, because poets are the unacknowledged legislators, after all. Since criticism is subjective, I will say that the politics are lacking but the poetry certainly is not. Looking past the politics, the lines in the protest poem are incredibly imaginative. Meg Francis lifts up Lady Liberty’s skirt in “War and Reputation: The Myth of Superpower”, showing off her “megaclit of cooper” (28). The Poison Sex Queen has something very intuitive and indelicate to say about the boys coming home wrapped in flags. With every fallen body is a buried body, and our Sex Queen wants the bullet drenched bodies alive and breathing, and all for herself. “The sex does not bother me/ It’s the war that invokes/ Heartache, shame, disgust/ Change the sheets/ never see you again/ Hurt of holes & holy/ Torn skin” “The Sex of Life” (92) She doesn’t pay lip service to the fallen, she just wants to serve them with her lips.
Though she is light on the political science and heavy on the politicking, Meg Frances deserves her allusions to Whitman, her lines of sexual freedom and understanding will be with a reader for as long as the sun is. Her images leave a reader uncomfortable and changed. She is a poet as free with verse as her Poison Sex Queen is with her body. The poems concerning faith, race, a dark take on Amy Tan’s mother/daughter relationship, and above all, sexuality, are too good to read just once. Meg Francis comes from the future to prepare the reader for what they will read in years to come.
The shorter poems are much more engaging than the longer poems. Mr. Tranströmer does well with sparse lines, but the longer they are, I can see than aThe shorter poems are much more engaging than the longer poems. Mr. Tranströmer does well with sparse lines, but the longer they are, I can see than a few more edits would have unpacked what he wanted to say, or make the reader feel, in the longer poems. But this is the collection for fans of contemporary poetry to begin with, in my opinion....more
One of those books that taught me the value and raw power of words on white pages. HIGH-RISE is dark, absurd, hopeless, but it's not empty. Far from iOne of those books that taught me the value and raw power of words on white pages. HIGH-RISE is dark, absurd, hopeless, but it's not empty. Far from it....more
The French and Latin phrases stop the prose dead, which is a shame. For his skepticism, one would think that Hitchens would have hated if or when he hThe French and Latin phrases stop the prose dead, which is a shame. For his skepticism, one would think that Hitchens would have hated if or when he heard preachers speak Greek to their sheep, so why do the equivalent of that to bookish sheep?
That really is the only complaint, honestly. Even essays about Orwell or Wodehouse biographers are worth reading and contain a great of lines worth underlining, which is how you know a literary critics is worth reading and committing to memory.
Good book, really, just bogged down in, well, pretentious Latin phrases....more