cover image (guns & butter)

(guns & butter)

Montana Ray. Argos (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (60p) ISBN 978-1-938247-16-3

In her debut collection, Ray reinvigorates the mostly abandoned technique of po%C3%A9sie concr%C3%A8te, crafting poems in the shapes of guns and even adding actual recipes to the mix. Ray replaces the standard unit of the line with the parenthetical, and each poem is a figurative gun loaded with ideas and images that play on the tension between the martial and the domestic. The poems are, as could be inferred from the book's title, overtly political, containing such declarations as "(politics of pregnancy) (is a phrase) (u just don't hear) (in Indiana)." The recipes should theoretically work as a counterbalance to the gun poems, but instead seem at best a form of Duchampian poetic readymades and at worst superfluous. The collection redeems itself with honest, sparse writing that is brazen and piercing as a bullet. Ray states, "(last we talked)/ (it was the Iran-Contra Affair)/ (& I'll always feel like Ronald/ Reagan) (when I say, I miss u)." Her juxtapositions are darkly humorous, evocative, and intimate. When she writes, "(& it was a raw year of phone weeping)/ (of weeping in public) (strangers offered to hug me)" such brief and self-contained statements draw readers into the poems. Though Ray's formal conceit tires quickly, the strong feminist themes more than hold the book together. (May)