Colloquial and incantatory, the poems in Patricia Lockwood’s second collection address the most urgent questions of our time, like: Is America going down on Canada? What happens when Niagara Falls gets drunk at a wedding? Is it legal to marry a stuffed owl exhibit? Why isn’t anyone named Gary anymore? Did the Hatfield and McCoy babies ever fall in love? The steep tilt of Lockwood’s lines sends the reader snowballing downhill, accumulating pieces of the scenery with every turn.
And for my reading, and for all the poems in this book that make reference to sex, I would say these are sexual poems. Sexual, like the rhythms of sex, the sometimes repeating and sometimes varying rhythms of sex, inside your head there is blood rushing around during sex making other rhythms of sex. When you read Patricia Lockwood’s poems this is what you’ll be feeling ... So goes the speaker in Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexual, who wants and then wants to want more if only to make wanting to want more like a trajectory that keeps drawing itself out even while we think that just wanting something will supposedly make it ours. It turns out wanting is another of those porous words. All of this sounds so uncomfortable. It is!
Many of Lockwood’s titles are grabby, over the top, titillating and outré...many of her characters are grotesques, cartoony, pixelated dreams ... Usually these characters are uncomfortably childlike, or hypersexualized, or both ... Pointless weirdness gets old fast...but here the weirdness almost always carries a magnificent, and political, point. If sexual and social norms make some of us (especially the young) feel monstrous, out of place, unheard, unprotected or out of control, then Lockwood will speak for the monsters ... Like the best stand-up comics, Lockwood seeks honesty, an honesty inseparable (for her) from the jarring, the awkward, the malformed, the disconcerting, from the tones and topics (especially sexual ones) usually excluded from polite company ... with its extended figures, its theme-and-variations structures, its spirals and twists away from (and sometimes back toward) ordinary speech, Lockwood’s new book rewards rereading. She is never subtle. Her work could seem dated soon. But those limits should not occlude her strengths. She has written a book at once angrier, and more fun, more attuned to our time and more bizarre, than most poetry can ever get.
She’s bolder, more sure of herself, than you are, and she has a genius for writing in the language of vulgar misogyny as she speaks to its absurdity ... The funniest parts—and there are many—all feel rather search-engine-optimized, titles and jokes ready to tweet ... her talent for humor extends beyond mockery, and I wish she’d bring to all her humorous poetry the same openness she brings to 'Rape Joke,' the same ability to compel as she repels. If the poems strike cultural nerves, all the better, but there are probably too few of them for her to find them reliably.