With a title borrowed from one of Robert Mitchum’s lines from the 1947 film noir Out of the Past, Chelsey Minnis's fourth full-length collection of irreverent verse plays with old ideas of wealth and love from Hollywood’s golden era.
[Minnis's] verse arrives well chilled. It is served with misanthropic aplomb ... Minnis is endlessly quotable, so one has to work hard not to quote her endlessly ... In Baby, I Don’t Care, one of the most unusual and persuasive books of poems I’ve read in some time, Minnis is not merely conducting a droll séance with the help of Turner Classic Movies ... [Minnis's] poems marinate in the sort of feelings you don’t like to admit you have. There’s a tang of Nietzsche in her antisocial desires, her amorality. Minnis is a bored, fierce, literate attendee at what the poet Frederick Seidel has referred to as 'life’s cotillion' ... Let’s say you haven’t bought a book of poetry in some time. Baby, I Don’t Care and the reissues from Fence Books could make you come back. You could start here.
Baby, I Don’t Care is not much of a departure—she still wisecracks about her poetry dependency (among other cocktails)—but Minnis makes her methods a bit more transparent, thanking the cable programmers of Turner Classic Movies in her acknowledgments for the lines of dialogue she steals. None of them is footnoted; you’re supposed to guess ... You may find the burlesque overbearing, but you won’t be reminded of the acres of earnest, epiphanic, look-at-me-grocery-shopping-pondering-normal-life free verse of the past half-century, and isn’t that an uplifting thought? Minnis hasn’t forgotten that we have art in order not to die of reality.
Few outright connections are made to classic films in the collection, at least not in a clanging, metatextual way. Instead, the poems sound and feel populated by the crooning voices and boa-wrapped profiles of the kinds of characters in those movies. Noir scenes get torqued just out of normality with Minnis’s off-kilter quips ... One can sense an underlying sincerity to the high-camp romance throughout the book, and that sincerity keeps the form from feeling academic or inbent. This a book that reaches out. The poem titles are structured in the form of wild and narrative ups and downs in the relationship that shape the themes of the poems and the arc of the collection ... Perhaps Minnis’s biggest asset, the one she uses to answer the question of how to write about love, remains her humor ... Minnis’s book presents the small, blessed solutions of lyricism, identification, and humor that make prolonged issues briefly bearable. The book is excellent enough that while it lasts, there is a short while when you don’t, you know, care.