HEATHER SWEENEY Reviews
The Meatgirl Whatever by Kristin Hatch
(Fence, Albany, N.Y., 2013)
Kristin Hatch’s recent collection, The Meatgirl Whatever, is both tense and alert. Through its stark imagery, this work is an open mouth indexing the grotesque nature of what is taken in and ingested by a body and what is spit out and transformed as evidence onto the page: “when you smiled big: rows of black tulips where you should have had teeth” (25).
The Meatgirl Whatever shatters and shakes on the page. These poems are wild animals and we are the startled readers, awakened into a world of subverted fairy tales and sinister satire. Consider “Snow White” in which the narrator expounds: “fuck this fleshy pageant. I want to pierce /something fierce.” (40).
Hatch presents the reader with unsettling atmospheres that are at once repulsing and alluring, concrete and abstract. The opening poems take us to a diner or fast food restaurant in which the interactions quickly move from normal and familiar to more than unnerving. In the first poem, “Meatgirl Training Shift #1” the female narrator explains her instructions: “open your mouth wide./your eater should see fur down your throat./you have to stay like this as long as he eats” (1).
The narrator who endures “manager jann” (7) and the “cologne-boy” (9) customer takes refuge in the walk-in: “in the walk-in, everything is hones/& stacked in well-marked tubs.” (10). The claustrophobic icy tomb is something she can count on. It embodies the narrator’s isolation, but also darkly offers a sense of reprieve and comfort from her oppressive job: “in the walk-in, it’s like stagedeath in someone’s arms” (11).
We do not sit in the suffocating fast food joint for too long. Throughout the poems, Hatch further explores the culture of violence and capitalistic degradation with compact language and condensed punctuation:
i pillow said emerald
you said onyx
ever a seventh grade tough kid
ever a baby in leather
Cultural spheres as settings continually shift and overlap. Hatch comments on the current “selfie” phenomenon in “Photoshoot”: “i am a skyline full of me” (27). The self-absorbed arrogance of this narrator seems to contradict the lower case “i” that permeates this collection, further complicating our sense of self in a fame obsessed “me” culture: “& then god invented me & me” (27). We then move onto other less specific realms where “the trees look like costumes!” (30) and sit at the edge of horror as we unsettle into “the pulp of you curled up like a heart” (23).
Within the mutating realms, an array of disparate female characters emerge, ranging from gina who “would the clouds./gina would the handsomest palm./gina forever.” (26) to america’s new cinderellas who “have knowledge obsessions: world war one, detroit techno djs, how to survive disaster situations…” (42). This cast of characters shine as they transcend stereotypes and provide new territory in which we can re-imagine their existences.
Selected for the National Poetry Series in 2013 by K. Silem Mohammed, The Meatgirl Whatever takes the reader into fantastical, horror tinged realms and “smells young like all the things you/haven’t done yet” (10).
Heather Sweeney is an MFA candidate and Allen Ginsberg Fellow at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. Her poetry and book reviews have been published in Dusie, Cutbank, Shampoo, canwehaveourballback? and is forthcoming in Summer Stock. When she is not in Boulder, she lives in San Diego with her husband and beloved dog, Dexter.