Annotation by Jade Long
Being able to read and learn about Kim Addonizio’s poetry made me see I have a space in the world of poetry. Poetry isn’t some boring beast built on rhyme patterns, forms, line breaks, and stanzas. Moreover, Addonizio’ s style helped me as a poet and as a young woman. Obviously we all know at this point that being a young woman isn’t as pretty as it seems. There is a little romance, but it isn’t all flowery and Shakespearian, and poetry doesn’t have to try to make it so.
She shows this in her poem “First Kiss.” I expected it to be the description of some astronomical first kiss with fireworks and butterflies in the belly, but it was totally different. That’s what made it so great. It amplified the vulnerability and the wanting to be needed that we all possess. It was the realization that the first kiss isn’t just some trophy story of some perfect being placing their lips on yours, nor is it supposed to be. Her voice, a voice of a woman seasoned with liquor and experience, is a voice that feels familiar and real.
One of my other favorite poems from this collection would have to be “Dear Reader.” I was caught by the opening sentence of this poem: “Tonight I am amazed by all the people making love / while I sit alone in my pajamas in a foreign country/ with my dinner of cookies and vodka.” I am taken by how human the speaker of the poem is. She is a normal woman. She’s not making some outlandish statement about feminism or being a martyr because she has a vagina. She likes to drink and wear makeup and go out traveling to new places and have sex. Like a female protagonist in novel, she is more base and rooted in the flesh of human experience than the usual elevated voice I thought of when I thought of poetry.
In Addonizio’s own way, this is a form of feminism: showing that a woman can be on her own travel, party, drink , make love to whomever she pleases, or even stay in her hotel room and not make love to anyone. Through it all, this feminist woman is confident enough to appreciate that other people have romance in their lives. The book is honest and true to the random roller coaster of a woman’s life.
Finally, there is “Fuck.” I saved the best for last. Mostly because anyone who knows me knows that I drop this beautiful bomb in most of my pieces. But it makes one of the best statements and I will continue to live by my belief that cursing in poetry doesn’t depreciate the value. The poem can still have artistic value and make an impact even though you’re using “vulgar” language. Because sometimes there is no other way to say what is needed to be said or give gravity the way you feel it should be made. Though Addonizio drops this in the title, the poem transforms the word into something “holy, / a splam, a hymn, a hammer.”
Overall this was the best experience I had in a long time in expanding my knowledge of poets outside of the predominantly black poets I read. It helped me see that I can keep writing and be a voice for women without being a man-hater or by only writing about injustice. In my writing I had relied on rhyming, but now I have been inspired to break out of my comfort zone thanks to my discovery of Kim Addonizio’s poems. I can be just as strong as anyone else, and my voice is just as important.