Christopher Mulrooney, Supergrooviness, (Lost Angelene Press, 2015)
Reviewed by Wynn Wheldon
[Originally published in LP9, June 2016]
As a reviewer the hope is that a new pamphlet or collection will contain at least one poem that speaks directly to you. Failing that, you hope for a poem that will unlock the rest of the collection, take you into the poet’s mindset, so that tropes, images, concerns become familiar and recognisable. But sometimes, perhaps even often, one’s hopes are dashed.
Supergrooviness is a low-end chapbook from an American feminist small press called Lost Angelene. It consists of “two dozen poems on the Resurrection and other matters”. Apparently it “brings out the minds and personalities of those around the Resurrection and their quotidian thoughts as history is made”.
I am quoting from a short introduction, presumably written by Mulrooney himself. The assumption, then, is that we are going to be treated to a Tarantino-like approach to the Resurrection of Christ (not, so far as I know, generally recognized as a historical event, but perhaps poetic license has been invoked). Maybe there will be some “Royale” type jokes.
Well, nope, there’s nothing half as enjoyable as that, although it veers close to that patch. These lines come from ‘on the road to Emmaus’ (only proper nouns have capitals):
I mean would you reco’nize him if you saw him
And here’s the whole of a poem called ‘Pentecost’
a light dawned on us
all at once
each and every one of us suddenly knew
what the hell we were talking about anyway
– which is jolly interesting for those heathens among us who do not really know what Pentecost is, and therefore have the pleasure of looking it up and reading about it.
The poem turns out to be a demotic reduction of the rather supergroovy verses to be found in Acts 2 1- 4, in which the apostles are “filled with the Holy Ghost” and everyone in a seriously multicultural Jerusalem suddenly begins to understand one another (although “Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine”). What, the reader must ask, is the point of reducing the poetry of the Bible to the prose of contemporary idiom? Still, I am grateful to have been led to Acts (“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood”).
And so to the “other matters”. What is one to make of ‘spattergate’?
say it right honey bun
with your coffee and curlers
I mean crullers
say the mean real
and relax over the newspapers
This is the entire poem. A cruller is a kind of twisted doughnut. I don’t know what “spattergate” means (Google is unhelpful), although perhaps it is some obscure reference to “splattergate”, the fuss resulting as a consequence of a bloodcurdling short film by Richard ‘Four Weddings’ Curtis funded by the 10:10 campaign, supported by the Guardian.
Or perhaps the “honey bun” of the first line is another description of a “cruller”, and in saying “curlers” – oh, forget it, because what does “say the mean real” mean anyway? Other than evoking breakfast before dressing, the poem has given me nothing.
I have other moans: the rhyming of “Southey” and “mouthy” is horrible; the spelling of “ascension” (“assention”, which suggests clenched buttocks) in the acknowledgements.
It is quite possible, even likely, that I am too dim or not sufficiently up on contemporary poetics to appreciate the obscure little wonders of supergrooviness, but I am however enough of a poetry lover to enjoy Berryman and even a bit of Ashbery, and I think I’m able to recognize the sound of poetry even if I do not at once grasp its meaning. I’m afraid Mulrooney does not sing to me.