Author: Theresa Smalec

Life in Dallas by Helen Gutowski

This tenth installment features our first poem by a millennial artist, and the first poem that Helen Gutowski publicly performed.  To give you some context, it was written in the summer of 2007; she was 16.  Fiercely precise in its rap-like rhymes and tempo, Gutowski’s poem enacts an era she describes as “youthful reckless abandon.” This poem recalls the pleasures of risk and rebellion, the lucky free falls that propel us into the future.        *** Life in Dallas A red ’91 Toyota Corolla, four door With more character than I could ever hope to have. Dallas,...

Read More

Let’s Have Sex: Pushing Up Against Today’s Narratives of Female Vulnerability

Although I’m loving the power of #MeToo to take down men with histories of sexual misconduct, one significant shortfall of the movement—or rather, of the society from which the movement emerged[1]—is how it’s almost impossible now for women to talk about our sexual experiences from positions of agency and desire. A few months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in October 2017, a young writer named Amber A’Lee observed on Facebook that stories involving even fleeting scenes of consensual sex “don’t get clicks anymore.” Instead, our culture’s current obsession is with women’s accounts of coercion and trauma. Female employees describe fainting during unwanted intercourse with their media bosses in dungeon-like offices. Aspiring actresses recall being mauled in hotel rooms by bigwigs wearing bathrobes. The singer Halsey performed “A Story Like Mine” at the Women’s March in New York, hailed by news outlets as a “raw and vulnerable poem about sexual violence.” Halsey’s rapper-style piece detailing her own sexual abuse was quickly shared online and viewed by thousands. Meanwhile, The Washington Post published an editorial about the lack of attention paid to women’s broader sociopolitical agendas: “Why is the Media Mostly Ignoring the Women’s March?” “Forced Sex” has all but vanished from the menus of popular porn sites, yet the theme migrates steadily into America’s middle-brow venues. Even before #MeToo, narratives about men controlling women’s bodies were hot commodities on...

Read More

Framing Poems by Sacha Archer

This ninth installment of Car Poems shifts gears to visual poetry. Below, Sacha Archer introduces viewers to his Framing Poems and elaborates on the power of a given frame to defamiliarize, destabilize, and ultimately expand and resignify the signs we take for granted.       The four visual poems here are from a series tentatively titled Framing Poems. My main concern in this work and some other related projects is the role of the creator—in this case, the poet. Framing Poems presents the poet as guide rather than, perhaps, as singer. Someone who directs, or re-directs, your attention. As the...

Read More

Branded and About Midnight by Elissa H. Nelson

Our eighth installment consists of two poems by Elissa H. Nelson. This pairing raises provocative questions about why many women today still “get burned,” so to speak, even when they are right. Moreover, why are many women conditioned to blame themselves for encounters lacking traction? Quietly haunting, Nelson’s poems speak to our current sociopolitical moment. *** Branded My path is cut off by another driver But the sun is blazing I honk the horn beneath the scalding emblem Burning my hand My palm pulls back But he is wrong I pound the scorching wheel again Burning my skin My arm jerks away But I am right I slam the searing symbol once more Burning my self   About Midnight I sit in the car waiting to go inside. When I do, I’ll hear the door close and lock behind me. The key is out of the ignition and in my hand. The car door is open, but there’s no beeping just the sounds of night. Crickets chirp, and trucks whir on the highway nearby. Some horn blares somewhere, but not too loud from here. Some motorcycle engine revs, all in the distance. My car’s clicking and ticking slow, the creaks stop. It’s cooling down quickly or maybe I’ve been sitting here longer than I think. But still I sit, and listen to a neighbor’s air conditioner turn on. I...

Read More

Valet Parking by John Beaton

This seventh installment features John Beaton’s “Valet Parking.” The poem is at once delightfully hyperbolic and a plausible depiction of the toxic masculinity we’ve come to associate with high-rolling leaders in all walks of life. “Valet Parking” also enacts a cultural revenge fantasy in the second person–positioning readers to watch, judge, and unexpectedly identify with the downfall of a man who ostensibly differs so much from us. *** Valet Parking Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Jaguars, and Beemers, Aston Martins, Morgans, Bentleys, Ferraris slick and sleek— your car makes you superior to your sandal-slapping neighbor who scrubs his Saab religiously on the Saab-bath day each week. You drive to where you’re worshiped, to the Hilton or Umberto’s, up to the altar where they bow—your alter ego’s waiting to touch the throaty thoroughbred with which you’ve graced his chancel. You leave it idling, sidle past, and bask in his adulating. Your back’s turned and his foot’s down. Yes! It’s right down to the floor, but only for a hundred yards—this isn’t Arizona. Tires screech in yawing fishtail swerves, which scare him to a crawl— but now that thrill will always bless his econobox persona. Now he can dream of being you, of pedal to the metal of scorching down the carriageway—a hundred and fifty or bust, head braced against the G-force, hood pointed to the skyline, wheels sprinting from their haunches in one great macho thrust....

Read More