State of the Union by Susan Lewis
(Spuyten Duyvil, New York, 2013)
Indispensable Addictions: Susan's Lewis's State of The Union
Taking as ground the mire of cliché and obfuscation characterizing our cultural and political discourse, Lewis adopts them as the raw material of her chapbook State of the Union (Spuyten Duyvil 2013). Collaging, inverting, splitting apart the waste materials of discourse into prose poems, the poet playfully and bitingly challenges the attitudes and actions materially aided by a corrupted, co-opted discourse and the wider collapses it camouflages.
Punning and playing on nonsense, the poet constructs an Edward Lear-esque terrain in which sound- and word-play do the work of deconstructing what passes for public discourse. Lewis' non-sense sensibly adopts satire, her playful language never hiding its sharp teeth. Via the cracked(-pot) lens of pubic discourse, her challenges are manifold: corporate greed and overreach, government complicity --"In the vortex of the centrifuge our union will be undermined by all the right people....Misery likes corporation" (5); climate change denial--"the outcome, another consequence of their stony hearts, their glossy inclinations, & their personal alchemy of hope & denial" (14); Consumerism--"Tangled in this web of our own mayhem, choked by too much and not enough, looking to our slaves for affection and a workable excuse" (13); and concentration of wealth in the hands of the .01 percent, among numerous others, "there is never enough time for these times, let alone those fortunes clustered willy-nilly in the midst of lack. Nor is that hoarding much use against our terminal condition." (4)
Sonically playing language's alliterative potencies, and punning like mad, Susan Lewis recycles cliche, stringing absurdities and banalities together, revealing (and dyspeptically reveling) in the toxic mess they disguise. Her titles integral with her opening lines, she improvises upon the Pledge of Allegiance and the hyperbole of marketing, addressing the noise of a world constantly "on" and "online": "Unbound By Law & its antecedents, with synesthesia & justice for ill. Mastered, digitally + analogously, a matter of enfolded dimensions & simultaneity Spontaneously I erupted, inter- if not co-, exogenously layer like that sexy cake you sport to shield you from the reign of expression--impressed as any empress, avec or sans portfolio. Neither assembled or dissed, this despite your itch to mi trustee, whence I stall you in the morning. No thanks to our piddle rituals--like that mourning shower, like of which can never cleanse our stubborn sorrows." (3)
Lewis' textual, meta-textual Frankenstein reanimates cliche and hyperbole, giving text and subtext the shared work of viscerally stripping away the comforting bandages -- and medicaments -- of illusion. Harboring no illusions that change comes first and fundamentally from poetry, she looses these poems to the winds and the odd chance, her satire doubting everything: "Practice mouthing apologies like better prayers. Assemble your objections, then scatter them to the still-forgiving winds." (4) "Or breathe. On the tongue: a taste fir origins, brutish & brief. Or swallow. & consume this rapid fantasy of emergence." We've run out of time.
Marthe Reed is the author of five books: Nights Reading (Lavender Ink 2014), Pleth, a collaboration with j hastain (Unlikely Books 2013), (em)bodied bliss (Moria Books 2013), Gaze (Black Radish Books 2010) and Tender Box, A Wunderkammer (Lavender Ink 2007). She has published chapbooks as part of the Dusie Kollektiv, as well as with above / ground press and Shirt Pocket Press. Her collaborative chapbook thrown, text by j hastain with Reed's collages, won the 2013 Smoking Glue Gun contest and will appear in Spring 2015. She is Co-Publisher of Black Radish and the Editor/Publisher of Nous-zōt chapbooks.