By Jendi Reiter
Paintings By Tom Taylor
($22.95, (7” X 10”) Paperback, 140 pages, 8 full color images)
Full of fun and full of anguish, superbly conscious of every rule they break, Jendi Reiter’s third poetry collection explores female-to-male transition and gay masculine identity through the voices of unusual objects and fictional characters with some aspect that is constructed, technological, or hybrid. From a surrealist’s eggbeater discovering feminist consciousness, or a pastry box enforcing omertà, to the Nicene Creed as interpreted by Frankenstein, these startling life studies open up onto a broader consideration of humanity’s relationship with technology and the shadow side of male dominance of nature. Illustrated with original paintings by graphic designer and multimedia artist Tom Taylor.
“Dense with figure and dense with thought, full of fun and full of anguish, superbly conscious of every rule they break, sometimes giving us comfort and sometimes ‘another live coal in your mouth,’ the poems in this collection work and play and travel in many directions, speak through many and varied masks. Then they come back together to point to a confident future, a nonbinary embodiment, a way past the limits of what other people have told us counts as feminine (‘the mermaid bleeds lipstick’), as masculine (‘chaos softboy’), as sacred, as childhood (‘happy as a rubber ball’), parenthood, adulthood (‘I didn’t grow up. I had more laundry’).
“Also they have the best titles. ‘Buzz Aldrin Takes Communion on the Moon.’ ‘Self-Portrait as Jersey Barrier.’ ‘Jolly Rancher Girlfriend.’ ‘Lesbian Dinosaur Island’! ‘I grow another shadow each time you deadname me to your pious circle,’ the poet says, making fierce circles of their own, spiraling above the foundational work of Hart Crane, the contemporary electricity of (say) Hera Lindsay Bird. ‘Adapt, pulverize, evade,’ this winning writer counsels, for starters, in one of many poems that speak for many and sundry objects (‘Self-Portrait as Egg Beater’): they can do it. We can do it. We can do better, empowered, baffled, cheered, estranged, fascinated by them and by the book they have made, ‘never fully at rest in its frame.’”
—Stephanie Burt, Harvard Professor of English, author of Advice from the Lights (Graywolf) and For All Mutants (Rain Taxi)
“Jendi Reiter’s poetry startles, like the universe ‘waiting / for you to see it in the bathroom mirror / where only your face should be.’ Here, you will find ‘stone-eyed flatfish and nibbled suicides.’ You’ll find ‘earth-dark faces / who turned the soil without owning it, / as the rain does.’ You’ll find ambrosia and firewater, the sugared name and the blown-out wish. And while, as Reiter points out, ‘Most of taste is smell, most of sweetness / anticipation, satisfied while the mouth is empty,’ you will find, too, that these slaking poems are capable of flowing toward and filling your hollowness.”
—Soma Mei Sheng Frazier, editor-in-chief of Subnivean, author of Don’t Give Up on Alan Greenspan (CutBank chapbook winner)
PAINTINGS BY TOM TAYLOR