New Orleans: Trembling Pillow Press, 2012
reviewed by Gregg Murray
“Love in the time of Chlamydia.” That’s Aesthesia Balderdash. If wordsmith Harryette Mullen is, as her book suggests, Sleeping with the Dictionary, Kim Vodicka is Sleeping with the Urban Dictionary. Scour for puns as necessary.
Corpses, back-alley blowjobs, cutting, puking, anything abject, sex, sex, sex, violence, suicide, mensies, trannies. As Shocantelle Brown would say: Whatever you need. Whether warning-label explicit or snicker-snicker explicit, that’s just the subject matter. And you have to set down your prude specs to let the kickass come into focus:
On her bees knees
Sucking down cocktails
And other insidious
Vodicka wrestles polysemy into musical clarity, hissing out the rhythm while hustling you on multiple levels. Consider the title poem. Stunning, darkly erudite and lyric, deliciously clever and airtight:
us lovely, turtledovely, neverthelaissez-faire,
Eve likelnesses, hunter-gatheresses and avant gardean angels.
With verse like this, Vodicka confidently, unabashedly strides into the avant-garde, demonstrating her lexical chops, her ear for verse, her gift for swiveling and swindling a phrase. Through this collection, her occasional angelic grin is but a smokescreen for the devilish mixologist behind. These poems go there. No, not there, THERE.
I sop up our fuck with my belly button,
as though it was manifest destiny.
but two people
disguised as human beings.
This is the give and take with what’s real, with what gets at the thing itself. In the above, Vodicka exposes the “manifest” content while toying with the manifestation of what’s latent. These are poems of desire. If Sherwood Anderson, for instance, provides us moments of insight into the psychology of Ohio through the everyday, why can’t Vodicka send up the back-alleys of New Orleans through the everyday abject? Note the beautiful, candid wordplay, even letterplay:
I don’t want to spread it but
The needle vendor
The need ling
The needling to death vendor
The dearth cadet.
What’s in a needle? Let’s look. Let’s play. And that’s what fun about needling through the gardens of “Margaux Hemingway.”
Admittedly, a handful of these verses aren’t as hard-earned, as in the first of two “Figurative Vomit” pieces which, while delighting in language’s abject spaces, hit the theme rather squarely. Note her tercet:
Fuck my pussy
Fuck my pussy
Fuck my pussy
Um, got it. Such moments, nonetheless, serve as the context—like a solid backdrop color—for her ingenious wordplay. It’s a high-low game. As in her so-called “tyranny for Kathy Acker”—whose inspiration claws and drips around these poems—Vodicka has:
…roofied her lips and kissed all the chicks
in the night nursery of trans.
With nails long enough to be unabashedly bitchy,
she’ll dick you over devil idles.
She’ll purposely forget to bring a lighter
So that someone will set her on fire
And the house bloats down.
She’ll stack up the nasty.
Oh, she stacks up the nasty alright, layers upon layers of it. But, Aesthesia Balderdash is an achievement. Whether this is your cup of tea or not, that can’t really be argued.