in America and Other Odd Views,
by Randall Garrison
Sun Dog Press, Northville, Mi.
In Lust in America, Randall Garrison reexamines the visceral
depths of American lust in all its glorious and patently infamous
forms. Part poetic diatribe, part celebration, Lust in America
removes the figurative scab from America's punctured appetite for
destruction. From rampant consumerism to empty-headed nationalism,
gun violence to competitive sports, environmental degradation to
high-risk relationships, and yes, even traversing the forbidden
cavities of incest, Garrison runs the metaphorical gauntlet of American
lustful -isms through a rather clever reinvention of classical myth,
American myth, and arguably, a pastiche medley of hit and myth.
As a lustful exploration of urban
and postindustrial hedonism, the poems are often genital-focused,
an appropriate mode of inquiry for a country where even "the
womb is oversold." Indeed, sexual underpinnings pervade the
work and are voiced most articulately in "Genitals," "Wombquake,"
"NeedlePrick," and in the section entitled "Village
"NeedlePrick," for example,
vacillates between comic and tragic prurience as Garrison's anti-hero
becomes a crotchety spectacle for laughing hookers, old men, and
small boys. Without phalloplasty, however, it is the phallically-challenged
NeedlePrick that has the last laugh as Garrison's poetic justice
snatches the small-pricked man from the fiery depths of the inferno.
Ironically, it is NeedlePrick's petite pecker that saves the day,
just when "it looked like / he was going / straight to Hell
/ but his tiny prick fit through / the eye of the needle / and his
girlfriend yanked him through." Against all odds, Garrison's
under-endowed gallant becomes the bona fide "Yank"-ee
plucked from Great Satan's melting pot. Hoo-ray for Hollywood, indeed!
Despite its sexual convergence, Lust
in America is not entirely devoted to love-guns. America's lusts
of greed and capitalism are also critiqued through quasi-melancholic
eco-horror. "BottomOut" and "Mountains" are
the collection's strongest pronouncements against the lusts of progress.
While the tree-hugging tropes are quite clever, Garrison's most
inventive leap emerges in the highly original, "Ceremony."
Plunging the reader into the realm of the cyber absurd, this particular
work buries the poet's mother under mounds of fibre optics and electricity
"in the internet" where "we can all go visit her
on Sundays / as long as the power grid stays on." Pure postmillenial
Kafka with a modem.
Garrison's confessional reproach in
Lust in America is refreshing. To his credit, this poetic
critique is persuasive without resorting to self-deprecation or
fist-in-your-face rhetoric. The divergent criticisms conveyed in
this poetic bacchanalia are not simply leveled against America but
equally directed at the poet's own complicity in this internal collaboration
of lust. And after the clanky bits of loose change, the acid rain,
and the contaminated bodily fluids have settled, the quirky aftermath
of Lust in America leaves one sweaty and quite possibly,
dirty. Even if you don't smoke, you might feel compelled to have
a cigarette after Lust in America, but then, is that really
wrong for America's lust generation?