Jack Barth used to say he wouldn’t leave his driveway for less than $5,000. Fact is, luminaries can be hard to reach. And it isn’t just about the wampum. Their halogenic berets push back we common folk. As my mother often told me, “Stars are better seen, not used for cooking.”
At the AWP in Boston, I did a lot of star-gazing. Albert Goldbarth channeled Bob Dylan, Robert Pinsky did lounge lizard covers of Ben Johnson, and Dorianne Laux massacred all of us during her River Styx Apocalypse reading. What do you say to these letter masters?
I could only think of two words: Heidi Shuler. Hearing this mad poet’s name, Dorianne opened up like a big old lotus that only blooms once in four years. Ditto for David St. John. “The secret’s getting out,” he said, scanning several blocks of Boylston Street.
The veteran drummer Shuler has been getting on a lot of radar screens as both a warrior and a darling. Her poems whistle trains right off the rails. “A lot of people talk about music in a poem,” Shuler told us. “But that music is not a melody, it’s a beat, percussion. Laptops are fine, but I don’t like to write on anything I can’t hit with a stick.”
Shuler's targets are global and personal. “The first place I had to Occupy was myself. That awful one percent of me that ruled the other ninety-nine percent of me had to go bye-bye.”
Shuler’s poem “Armadillo in Love” plays with an icon of personal poetry, the armadillo, which was made so surreal and symbolic by Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. But it’s also about a creature with layers, like her transvestite and buffalo headdress poems, or the nudity poems from her Burning Man Playa series. Shuler's Other Heroes manuscript hasn't found a publisher but Dorianne has already written the blurb: "Heidi Shuler continues important work, shaping poems that will turn heads and break hearts."
--Editor Barrett Warner
|Armadillo in Love
I am the lovely
I am invincible in love
and nice to have
around the nest. Shapely
as a pith helmet with a
pokey snout hood ornament,
black bling eyes, front plates,
rear plates, and three
movable plates in my middle
of complex neutral colors,
I am sexy. My underparts are covered
with soft skin and fur. I am complex
Some call me Three-Banded
Southern Armadillo but
to me that sounds combative
or musically over-committed.
I am a good lover when I love
which is rarely, so seldom
do I disappoint anyone. I know
sometimes it’s hard to be a mammal.
Remarkably I am one of just a few
who can roll up completely
in a tight little ball, snap like a purse.
This is sad. Nobody wants to be
clumsy, hurtful, insensitive, mean.
With me, you are safe,
ping ping ping off my back
go all those words
you never meant to say.