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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Woman You Write Poems About

via Feminist Review by Feminist Review on 10/25/09
By Danielle Montgomery
AK Press

Most of the time when I read poetry books, I'll dog-ear the pages of poems I really like. I started to do this with Danielle (Dani) Montgomery's collection, The Woman You Write Poems About, but within the first twenty pages I realized I didn't have one non-bent-down page corner; every single poem in this collection is intriguing and amazing in its own way. What makes Montgomery's poetry outstanding is that she brings out the brutal truth of really hard subjects. Furthermore, the language she uses to do this is breathtaking in the way that a life realization seriously makes you stop for a second, until you realize you aren't breathing because you've been thinking these big thoughts instead. Montgomery's poetry brings up these big thoughts and makes you stop for a moment (or more).

The truths that Montgomery bring to the page involve the harsh realities of being a poor, single mother attempting to navigate the different types of violence in our society, and trying to keep her sanity while doing it. In the poem "S.S.A." Montgomery reveals:

on the phone
after my
conversation with mr. social security, I'm feeling like

the woman you write poems about

not the woman who writes poems

I'm feeling like that

a little tragic
with my two screaming kids

stained shirt

messed up hair

mr. social security wants to know

why can't you work

are you worthy


I give my best




this is a poem

from the woman you write poems about


I can write my own

maybe I already have

I'm a bad ass

on the phone

filling out forms all day

this is a poem
from the woman
you write poems about

She is the woman with the screaming kids. She is the woman who has no money and is trying to make ends meet with each roll of pennies. She is the woman who has been turned into a tool for artists seeking out an empathetic subject, but here she is becoming the artist. She is describing her own situation, and talking back to what has already been talked about her.

As a single mother and a poet, the two stereotypes of the poor single mother and the starving artist collide in Montgomery's work. She discusses the hardship of being depressed and being a mother ("poem for mamas with postpartum depression: we can make it through"), as well as the moments in her life that have sparked joy and creativity ("what the living do"):

at nineteen
I woke up in my apartment
to the sound of a man pissing
out back behind the dumpster
and I shook off sleep to listen
I loved the sound of him pissing
in congratulations
yes congratulations
we lived through another night

Sarcastic, raw, refreshing, humorous, and relieving in all of her honesty, Montgomery exposes her readers to what it means to face life's tough shit, look at it, do what you can with it, laugh, cry, and then continue to survive.

Review by Chelsey Clammer
Check out more reviews at http://www.feministreview.org

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