about the author

Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the forthcoming novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2012). A regular reviewer for Rain Taxi Review of Books, Dew is the author of Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.

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For the Comfort of Automated Phrases
A Review of For the Comfort of Automated Phrases
by Jane Cassady

Spencer Dew

In one poem Jane Cassady talks about bronzing a Saturday morning. In another, she details the depths of her painful “empathizing with Laura Palmer for 17 blocks / before I remembered she wasn’t real, / she never went through anything.” In several, she weaves strong, pulsing statements from the lyrics of pop songs, and, in another, she sings praises of the Moon Pie—“my body held together / by marshmallow, grains / swelling my throat like tannins / or lust, of sweet stars, oh / artificial banana, oh soft-spring tourist trap.” Cassady’s take on the Moon Pie is touched, to be sure, by the same wry urban sensibility that, when confronted with the assorted Old South “tchotchkes” at Nervous Charlie’s fireworks stand hopes that they “are only bought by installation artists of color,” but it is also authentically euphoric, swooning as another poem does about Austin, in general, its “armpit stains” and “conspiracy radio.” The celebration of the sticky sweet sensual details of this snack is an act of revealing vulnerability, putting proclivities and physicality on display, splaying one’s throat and tastes and hungers. Examining the Moon Pie in an erotic light, Cassady’s raw revelry here echoes another achingly honest, heartwarming, and hilarious poem entitled “Dear Ladies of Plano, Texas, Zumba Class,” which praises “booty shaking, / but not in an organized fashion.” Here is a poet on a quest to look America in the souvenirs and buses, to see, in its tchotchkes and Forever stamps, the human, startlingly in its ability to always surprise, to break, for instance, into song:

A bus full of kids on the way to the skating rink
sprouts, then bloods, then becomes a full blown
“All the Single Ladies” sing along, complete with moves.

There are more intimate expressions of zeal and pleasure, too, from texts—Cassady laments upgrading her phone, talking of the old one like a lost lover, distrusting readymade icons, hedging her bets in communications by spelling out “my hearts / with a carrot and a three, / just to make sure everyone gets them”—to the gifting of parts of her life to real lost loves, people from the past, like “the woman who almost ran me over / after I sent her a love poem,” to whom the poet now wishes to give

...every love poem since,
not the content, just the stupid bravery,
the cold adrenaline of risk
knowing I might lose everything,
but still pressing “Send.”

There is such “stupid bravery” to the open-heartedness of these poems, such a rush from their reception. This is a book, as Cassady says at one point, of a particular sort of weather, that “gets you in the soul / and in the underpants.” This is a book that gets you up and dancing.

Official Jane Cassady Web Site
Official Sibling Rivalry Press Web Site

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