Icy// & blue—left and that/ is to say, I love you// and could you please/ return to me// my tongue
Above all definitions of flung, I place “involved vigorously” foremost to describe my reading of Lucy Anderton’s debut. Her figurative and aesthetic reckoning is brilliant, fulfilling one of Yusef Komunyakaa’s requirements for poetry: “. . .doesn’t necessarily have a linear narrative, but invites one in to become a participant.” Nearly every poem is one of address, but the addressed evades summary and absolute specificity. In less capable hands, I would feel like an outsider or a mere observer. Not so with the flung you.
Anderton’s poems are as speedy and untamed as Dean Young’s poems with their exciting, subjective leaps. The self won’t be still, spanning 48 pages. Instead, You shifts just as if flung in space and time with and within a surrealistic set of relationships. Anderton’s emphasis is on movement and the uncertainty of destination. You struggles, speaks curtly and forcefully; its sense and direction for things resist containment and labeling. In the title poem, a diptych, You begins “stuck in god’s throat” and “settled” like a spoon before being flung “in the cold air. . .triumphed, fooled”. . .” You is then wished-for, “bright with sorries/ and a path.” You is impatiently cast, sometimes an echo, a Janus face, always seeming.
I had a core group of friends in high school, all soccer players (in a time when that was a “weird sport,” especially for girls). We had a leader of sorts, two years older, extremely extroverted, who’d yell pile-up! at any given place and point—school hallway, soccer drills, band practice—and fling herself on top of the closest shy one. The rest of us would ensue. Though it hurt and caused difficulty breathing, it was a version of embrace. It was a much-needed contact and way for heady teenagers to recognize that we are here together—not lovers but with a fierce love. In the flung you, Anderton uses juxtaposition and metaphoric pile-ups. Like anything flung, they can be violent, which I think Anderton enjoys flirting with since she chose to open her book, “orange hurts me/ but I like it best.” Nothing can replace the surprise, catching us unassuming and unaware. We need the variety, and Andertonknows this, so she offers plain diction as a breather: “Yes, orange would take me/ down. Uninvited, rose-orange/ found its door through the candle/ gleam flittering out off the crimson/ satin feathers. That orange/ is you” (“Orange Hurts Me”). Note the compact movement from being taken down, finding a door, barging in, and flittering. Despite simultaneous imagery, she expertly keeps readers from being overwhelmed.
Is all the time changed—
but you know you’re the same
one who hides in the cloak
of those others with their bitten notes.
I will never love anyone else—
you tell me
I won’t. I believe it.
The arbitration between stone and petal. (“fall #3)
We can make inferences out of these lines and images of adjacent information. We can make the sequences make sense, but Anderton relies on us to do the penetration. The cloak is thin as is the distance between stone and petal. Is it really hiding if the hiding spot is known? If a music note is bitten, how does it sound? Such sonic and semantic interplay demand to be read aloud.
the flung you is full of unexpected turns of phrase, reminding me of Harryette Mullen, of their mutual gift of being “licked all over by the English Tongue” (Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary). Anderton’s “fall #1” concludes, “Ah yes—my surface// is/ breaking with stain.” Not breaking under the strain. And, again: “Can I give up?/ I want to be ready. Turn/ up the sunlight. Hanging// out to dry there is the list” (“Is it Time to Give Up Yet? Should I Ask the Man?”) is an unexpected sundial—one turned with a hand like a stereo.
This is not the book for you if you like listening to the radio and finishing the refrain on your first listen. In “There are Teeth in the Egg,” Anderton opens, “Drying up is never/ easy. Sloppy// with glitter. (I caught/ the holy horn/ by the cow). . .” Surely catching a cow is one of the only things worse than finding glitter everywhere, years after the project is done. This is not a book for you if you think everything can be cleaned up.
Anderton deftly breaks her lines to create this flung momentum, which also maintains a musicality. Her use of assonance accentuates this, as well. One coda describes, “There is a place/ we step into--none too soft,// none too opening. It is there// that our silence waits. There// with its circling pace” (“if it is true that I eat electricity, then we”). “There” repeats demonstratively, pausing between steps and full of warning. This is where Salvador Dali would live, making mischief with the very “shackles limiting our vision”:
Yes. I sleep
like this unlaced
in the hot
fortune, unlinked &
sinking as love foxtrots
in all twist & turn
the furnace twinkles, twinkles up
O intimate lantern.
O standish cold. (“Close Catch”)
The surreal is so controlled with details and restraint that it reads as if this life couldn’t be any other.
the flung you is obsessed with mouths. The voice is sensual as in “nothing left—// then sliced: humming/ at your mouth, wet/ glistening beads held/ back by the tender tongueable skin, the pale/ envelope, whispered cup, it rips” (“Orange Hurts Me”).
She doesn’t just show off the pearly whites: “I will drag my dirty dirty/ tongue along. Broken// plates? And you did not/ say you knew. Welcome// mat at the mouth way” (“fall #2”). Her lyrics are mesmerizing and lavish, but she is not afraid to use those teeth. She’ll bite you as soon as talk to you. What happens after that, pray tell? Anderton ends “Toward the single point of slipping” with “No way to cut open/ and run. We all// stumble: out/ holding our dear guts in our hands. And always// the teeth that near and near.// And always the watchers/ who do nothing.//Nothing now/ to be done.”
The shortest poem in the collection is “Carry the Heart.” The coda sings, “Into the night-throat a blood owl tips a wail./ My own fingers won’t rest at all./ Not even when I sleep:/ that world where you are with me.” An owl sees up about 180 degrees as well as around. With that much advantage over the rest of us, a wail seems appropriate. One of the roles of a poet is to pay attention to what others don’t. I want to know where that next world will be because I can trust, with this poet, that it will be revelatory and compelling. I will learn more about my own world. Yes, I must admit that those restless fingers make me selfishly happy. I want another book, Anderton.
Lucy Anderton’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Barrow Street, Forklift, Ohio, American Letters and Commentary, and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea Books, 2009), among others. She spend two years as the writer-in-residence for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in the south of France, where she now spends time rebuilding a 500-year-old brothel. The flung you is her debut book of poetry.
Heather Dobbins’s poems have appeared in Big Muddy, Chiron Review, and TriQuarterly Review, among others. She was the featured poet for Beloit Poetry Journal last June. Her debut, In the Low Houses, is forthcoming from Aldrich Press in early 2014. After earning degrees in California and Vermont, she returned to her hometown of Memphis. She is currently a writing instructor and college counselor at a special needs high school.