Today’s Reading: Kendra Grant Malone, Chasing Pigeons Makes Me Feel More Powerful
Kendra Grant Malone is a poet and fiction writer I first came across on the same DRUNK blog where I discovered Daniel Bailey and Bryan Coffelt. Like Bailey, she could be seen as part of a “New Sincerity,” a wave of young poets who eschew the impersonality of most innovative poetry and even the rhetoricalness of most mainstream poetry to just, sort of, write what they feel, in a way that looks like nothing so much as the poetry you remember from your undergrad lit mag. (Here’s the thing, you (I) actually liked a lot of that poetry, and felt somehow that it was “wrong” or just not permitted for you (me) to do so.)
Now Malone has a little (tiny) e-chapbook up that takes that tendency all the way. These poems are as self-involved and exhibitionist as they can manage, full of self-flagellations and sexual confessions that more or less openly invite you to judge the poet personally (“i don’t even know who i would call / tonight, for sex / because i don’t feel like trying hard / or listening to anyone talk about themselves / which is a courtesy you must provide / if you are about to use them / for their body”). And as I read the poems, I found myself doing just that, looking not so much at the content of the confessions as at the self-dramatizing narcissism that seems to prompt them and thinking, “I don’t know if I like this poetry because I don’t know if I like this person.”
Then, eight poems into the ten-poem selection, Malone pulls off a trick that reminds you (me) that this really ain’t your college lit mag after all: she drops in a totally self-aware and really affecting poem about the very act of judging that she’s just been baiting you (me) into, about the meaninglessness of judgments and the pain and confusion of being judged and the impossibility of refraining from judging others even while you’re begging not to be judged yourself. And then you (I) remember that that’s what all these poems are about, not just in their desperately insecure content but even more so in their quietly confident form, in their choice of an aesthetic that does away with all kinds of artistic point-scoring and then defies you not to dismiss it as amateurish. You feel a little ashamed to like these poems as you feel a little ashamed to like this poet, but you do and you’ll be happier if you just go ahead and embrace it.
When I got to the end of this book my first thought was, “Okay, Kendra Grant Malone, I guess you win.” Which means, “Yeah, okay, I will go ahead and buy your full-length poetry collection when it comes out,” and is maybe all I needed to say here.