Pamper Me to Hell & Back, Hera Lindsay Bird
Smith/Doorstop, 2018 £7.50
Baring a damaged soul
In ‘I am so in love with you I want to lie down in the middle of a major public intersection and cry’, Hera Lindsay Bird writes:
for you, I would set myself on fire in a smoke detector factory
for you, I would ride through the mall on a Segway knocking juices out of the hands of thirsty real estate agents
your lungs like Christmas stockings waiting for Santa to climb down the
chimney & put cancer in
your face like the face of a dead French revolutionary in an outdated children’s textbook
The title is breathless. It promises cliché and excess, desperation, formal recklessness, runaway thoughts, someone who is willing to bare their damaged soul and probably laugh about it.
Each line — frequently running over as if it doesn't know when to stop — is a statement. The cumulative effect is infectious, exhilarating. Like the lines in a John Ashbery poem, they have the confidence of meaning, but when you try to decipher them, that meaning can be elusive. They force you to read on instinct, then work out what the hell just happened at the end.
At times I grew suspicious of so much paradoxical imagery and its resistance to interpretation. Lindsay Bird uses much hyperbole to dramatise inner experiences, turning them into a sort of circus, with confession as a spectator sport. In the early poems in the collection she manages to do this while maintaining a strong sense of authenticity, as if the words had come straight out of her mouth. ‘I am so in love with you...’ falls in the middle of the book, by which time I began to feel that she was playing to her audience.
But the poetry has charmed me, so I’ve decided it’s all in the name of allegory, in the sense that Walter Benjamin once described. These are poems that attempt to portray a volatile, conflicted state of mind. The over-dramatisation, the resistant imagery, the self-contradiction signify (in a sort of homage to teenage angst) how incomplete any attempt at representing such an unstable landscape will be.