Saturday, September 27, 2008

These Poems are Fantasy, but seem oh so Real

Anna Nicole -- Poems by Grace Cavalieri
Review by Missy McEwen

At the beginning of the book, these words: "These poems are fantasy." I had to keep reminding myself of that when reading Grace Cavalieri's Anna Nicole because I found myself believing every word and forgetting that this is all imagination -- that is how real these poems are. It is as if I am reading a memoir written in poem form.

In Anna Nicole, Anna is not two-dimensional. She is alive and breathing again. Cavalieri gets into Anna Nicole's head like how an actor prepares for a role and she pulls it off. I can hear Anna Nicole's voice while I am reading these poems. I can see her in the scenes and situations in which Cavalieri has placed her. And I keep reminding myself over and over again -- these poems are fantasy. But it seems as if Grace Cavalieri followed Anna Nicole around and studied her.

"Once she heard on TV that if a man rapes you,
he steals your soul…
That's why she always gave in to men,
so she wouldn't have to be raped,
so she could save her soul."
-- from Negative Capability

I had to ask myself, did Anna Nicole mention this in a magazine or television interview? Or is this all in Cavalieri's imagination? And If so, what an imagination she has. Even though this is fantasy, Cavalieri gives the reader authentic Anna Nicole. She shows the reader an Anna Nicole confused about her role in life (in real life Anna Nicole often seemed confused). In Cavalier's Anna Nicole, Anna Nicole seems to be confused by this: should she be the religious-do-right-by-God woman or be the Hollywood sex symbol? She tries to convince herself that Hollywood is the way to go and others try to convince her that Hollywood is the way to go:

"Trusting a stranger because he said
The Good Lord can't see what happens in
Hollywood." -- from Anna's Estate
"The counselor said…
creation is a divine collaboration with God." -- from Negative Capability

However, Anima, Anna Nicole's Alter Ego, tries to talk her into doing "God's works," but "Anna knew only God could do God's works,/and said so." (House of Strings).

In Narcissism Spring, Anna Nicole asks: "What religion overcomes suffering?" It is as if she is doubting religion or looking for a new religion altogether. In Anna Nicole's eyes, Hollywood is a religion. So Anna Nicole turns to Hollywood and fame and success, but even "Success cannot/kill grief, just the body." (Betrayal All Around Her). However, death does not scare Anna Nicole. She welcomes it:

"Death would be so nice,
something all her own
like a baby or the
Academy Award." -- from Tinseltown

"Hollywood is where you
go to die." -- from House of String

dying on the
toilet, oh,
so beautiful to die like that, expressing yourself." -- from Didn't She Almost Have It All

"She wasn't afraid to die.
She'd get some delicious morphine at the end." -- from No More
Lapdancing With The Stars

I believe Anna Nicole would think like this. Once again I have to remind myself that this is fantasy, but it seems so real. Even the other characters in the poems, Rescinda (Anna Nicole's maid) for example, seem as if they really exist. "Anna knew full well…Rescinda would spit/in her coffee" if she touched her man. Luis, another character in this book, is Rescinda's man. We get a glimpse into their lives as well and I find it hard to believe that these people do not exist.

The poems in Anna Nicole remind me of the poem My Date With Elvis: Cybil Shepherd, 1973 by Sandra Yvonne. In the poem, Sandra Yvonne writes in first person as though she is Cybil Shepherd and describes her date with Elvis at the movie theater. Poems like these give poets freedom and let them use their imagination. While reading Anna Nicole I am also reminded of the book M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A by A. Van Jordan about the first African-American girl to make it to the final round of the National Spelling Bee. A. Van Jordan gives her a back story and gives her a voice, gives her life again just like how Grace Cavalieri's Anna Nicole gives Anna Nicole a voice and life again.

Published by GOSS183::CASA MENENDEZ (2008) and may be purchased from Amazon or stop by

1 comment:

crocodile said...