Starred Review-- Publishers Weekly October 16, 2006
The Anger Scale
Katie Degentesh, Combo (SPD dist.), $12 paper (80 p) ISBN 0-9728880-2-0
Degentesh's debut draws on Google by importing content from Internet searches into her poems to fill in the blanks of the MMPI. That's psych shorthand for the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, sample statements from which --"I Feel Uneasy Indoors"; "I Am Not Afraid to Handle Money" -- serve as titles for these 35 beautifully conflicted poems. Degentesh inhabits the poems' weirdly pathologizing psychic space with a deep love of overheard speech that's charged with unconscious (and sometimes not so unconscious) violence, longing and misunderstanding: "it was sloppy and bloody and all fucked up,/ when I try and translate it back into English/ it sounds like the Christian notion that we are born// to read stories of free, unhindered UnaBirths." Degentesh is a member of the Flarflist collective, a loose gathering of Google-obsessed poets who cast their poems in an ironic, deliberately "not ok" mold: "I loved my mother, and she did nothing/ as my father repeatedly beat me." The Weird genius of these poems is that Degentesh encodes a sliver of identification within her deadpan sendups of cliché and banality surrounding real feelings, such that when one speaker says, "at the same time some poor wanker necro in half undress/ was kissing, fingering and licking Shelene's pussy," the reader feels a kind of celebration rather than censure. (Nov.)
Now available from Bridge Street Books-- (rod at bridgestreetbooks dot com). Or visit Combo Arts online.