Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Anger Scale

Thinking how the voice in Katie Degentesh's The Anger Scale extends and amplifies O’Hara’s in those last couple years: odd bits from Westerns, purposive rudeness ("SHOULD WE LEGALIZE ABORTION?"), a gift for zany non sequitur ("Just because I’m alone in the snow/doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a Nazi."). With both there’s a clear sense of a self behind the mayhem, but strategically occluded, leaving you to sort out what’s Wizard and what’s canny Nebraskan behind the curtain.

Instead of exposing the author, Katie's Toto goes straight for the confessional workshoppy tissue-on-Oprah “I”, along with the culture that keeps prodding us (women especially?) to present ourselves like that. But so much squirts out around the edges of this reading—“It started with being attacked by a large male pigeon/in a big square in Copenhagen/This was followed by having a boy throw a live chicken at me”—I wouldn’t try to make it stick for more than a stanza or three.

The structuring frame—Katie ran phrases from the widely-used Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) test, “the benchmark for determining people’s mental pathologies as well as their fitness for court trials and military service since the 1930s,” through Google and made poems with the results—seems like it’d put The Anger Scale in a line with procedural poetries from Jackson Mac Low to Kenny Goldsmith. But I hear a lot more New York School: critical social listening via the Internet, the postwar New York of our time.
“It is extremely difficult to achieve perfect randomness
the Sun will not always shine just enough and not too much
But I read, and make such memorandum as I can.”

--Katie Degentesh, “My Sleep Is Fitful and Disturbed”

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