Patricia Lockwood: The Smutty-Metaphor Queen of Lawrence, Kansas

Jesse Lichtenstein in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_661 May. 29 21.38Just before she took the microphone one soggy night in Portland, Ore., the poet Patricia Lockwood downed a shot of cheap bourbon. She had never had a drink right before a reading, but she often enacts some private joke when she speaks in public. It might be slurping her water loudly into the microphone, or rolling (instead of stepping) onto a stage, or, in this case, ingesting something that tasted to her like a puddle in a forest — anything to erase what she calls the “anxiety kegels” leading up to a performance.

That evening, more than a hundred poetry fans — most of them in their 20s, most of them clutching cans of bargain beer — crowded into a corner of a 12,000-square-foot wood-and-metal shop as Lockwood began a 12-minute romp of a poem called “The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics.”

Lockwood is all large eyes, apple cheeks and pixie haircut — like an early Disney creation, perhaps a woodland creature; one of her fans recently rendered her as a My Little Pony. The contrast between how she presents and what she writes is something Lockwood delights in.

“Emily Dickinson was the father of American poetry and Walt Whitman was the mother,” she read. “Walt Whitman nude, in the forest, staring deep into a still pool — the only means of taking tit-pics available at that time.”

I laughed, like everyone else in the audience, and then settled in for a poem that re-envisioned two 19th-century pillars of American poetry through a kaleidoscope of contemporary obsessions. Occasionally, the sound of arc welding filled the silences between stanzas. It was, she later said, “the butchest I have ever felt.”

More here.