PATRICIA LOCKWOOD – INTERNET POET

Posted: June 2, 2014 in Chat
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PATRICIA LOCKWOOD – INTERNET POET

Internet poet and tweet-sexting pioneer, and as Wiki has it, comedian.

Patricia Lockwood is making it onto the big stage. Her new book MOTHERLAND FATHERLAND HOMELANDSEXUALS (Penguin Books) is just out, following on her last big seller, BALLOON POP OUTLAW BLACK (Octopus Books, 2012).

PL

1

Her biog is as famous as her writing. Born in early 80s.
Ok.
Her father was a Lutheran pastor, who woke up one morning and realised that is what he was. He married, had kids, then he realised he was really a Catholic priest. He is a Catholic priest who goes around in a cassock, but lives with his wife and family.

Patricia left school and wanted to go on to train as a journalist. The family had no money. She left home and supported herself working in bookshops etc. She had met online a man who was to be her rock. They married young; he worked his way up on local newspapers. They were managing. He thought her writing was tops, supported her in every way, sent her work off to magazine, and she started getting published. More than this though, she had built up a following on Twitter with her rude and surreal humour texts/sexts. The internet loved her.

Then her husband came down with serious eye problems. They had no money for the medical treatment. An online buddy suggested she try crowd-funding. Within 12 hours she had more than enough for the eye ops. They have lived many places in the South of USA.

2

What is especially important about her success is her lack of full academic training.

That is not to say she is not well read – she is probably better read than I am – but has missed out on all the structured and admit it, limiting avenues that academia gives people.

In consequence she writes in a language that is accessible to anyone and everyone; her references are as much to up-to-date politics and culture, as to general educational sources.
She writes a language that people can understand, and don’t need to be clued into academic theories and concepts to understand. Which modern writers do not have the back-up of the academy now!

That is not to say her work is artless – far from it. She has a very astute mind, and thinks about what and how she writes. A poem can traverse many domains of knowledge, can use many tones of voice from sarcastic to satiric to impassioned.

Consider this, from GOVERNMENT SPENDING, 2013:

The government spent a Patricia on me,

“a huge waste,” it lamented, “when we could

have been spending it on another Nixon,”

 

the government spent all its beauty

………………………………………………………….

said,

           “Is there none left? Print more,”

 

Straight away here you can hear the stand-up’s rolling rhetoric, as well as an enviable ability to encapsulate present-day mores and a grasp of economics. She goes on:

 

 you are born, you barely contain yourself,

you grow, inside you, …………

……………………………………………..

then oh god, you feel wonderful,

                         you must be on welfare,

 

The tonal range here is admirable, as well as the tight control of material.

 

motherland

 

And then we have the RAPE JOKE POEM.

The Rape Joke was, unbelievably, popular not so long ago.
What makes these things happen? Was this before, or after the horrendous India Rape Incident? Is it a way of trying to deal with terrible events? Or just crass people jumping onto the idea of offense and controversy? Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks, Richard Prior could carry it off, but then they had this dialectic: the injustices of the system, and its consequences.
Here, though, I suspect such refinements have been forgotten or junked for the sake of controversy for controversy’s sake. Shock value as the only value.

 

And so we have the Rape Joke Poem. It is full of variations of voice, it says one thing and turns around to look at what its’ said. Its tone is light. It relates an actual experienced rape, but sardonically, ironically (- it’s called survival). She writes:

 

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.
The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

 

It is the ordinariness, the banality, of people who do terrible things:

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

 

And yet I suspect there are people out there who cannot read the voice in this, who cannot hear the acid and bite:

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.
Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

 

And, previously:

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

 

PLtwo

 

One of Patricia Lockwood’s many abilities in her work is to be able to personify. Here the Rape Joke is a current stand-up fad, an attitude of mind, a state of being, an actual person, and a way of dealing with the experience.
She thinks naturally, she says in an interview, in metaphors.

She writes about Popeye, Dan Draper, but I think one of my current favourites must be THE ARCHl:

Of all living monuments has the fewest

facts attached to it, they slide right off

its surface, ……………….

 ………………………………………………

 

…………………………………………………………………

…………………………………….its sadness it gives

        away a great door in the air. Well

        a city cannot except for Paris, who puts

on a hat styled with pigeon wings and walks

through the streets of another city ………….

……………………………………………………….

 

        Or am I mixing it up I think I am

with another famous female statue? …

……………………………………………………………..

…………………………………………………………….

         

…………………………………………..What an underhand

        gift for an elsewhere to give, a door

that reminds you you can leave it. She raises

        her arm to brush my hair. Oh no female

armpit lovelier than the armpit of the Arch.

I love particularly how that last image raises the crass depilated advertising image of woman into something of a concept of classical beauty. The mother relationship is also finely delineated, and touchingly so.

3

One thing to notice about these works is that they are long pieces: the RAPE JOKE POEM is about 80 lines of prose poetry; THE ARCH, above, is the standard 30, but most others are lengthy.
In the UK most platforms and outlets for poetry tend to specify SHORT poems only.
Also in the UK metaphor is on the way down; people have a problem identifying it, and what its referents are. The changing parameters of cultural identifiers are throwing traditional tropes, motifs and methods into flux.

Patricia Lockwood’s work is very heartening, though: as doyen of internet and tweeting she quite appreciably uses a wide range of voices and sophisticated palette of techniques. She enriches writing and plays with its selfie-mentality, its over-seriousness, its self-importance. Most importantly she attracts readers and helps them recognise in the diminishing field of poetry-reading there is a wealth of writing to be enjoyed.

She gives ordinary people back a sense of themselves, their autonomy, their inherent sophistication. In the face of academic writing and its self-justifications she presents a writing that can be about life and how it is lived outside the realms of overthink.

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Comments
  1. What a great piece. I found Rape Joke to be incredibly powerful when I read it last year, but aside from her tweets, I hadn’t read anything else by her. Thanks.

    • I have only just come across her, and admit to being really struck. Not into Tweets, but think I’ll have go for her book!
      Thanks for your comments, greatly appreciated!

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