THE BEDSIDE GUIDE TO NO TELL MOTEL Edited by REB LIVINGSTON & MOLLY ARDENWILLIAM ALLEGREZZA reviews
The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel, Edited by Reb Livingston & and Molly Arden
(No Tell Press, 2006)
Naughty, naughty, naughty—how often do we get to say those words about a poetry anthology? Not often, but they definitely apply to Reb Livingston’s and Molly Arden’s The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel. Just listen to some of the section titles for this work: “Discretion and its Discontent,” “Techniques Guaranteed to Please,” “The Difference Between Seduction and Manipulation.” Our seductive editors tell us in their foreword, “These poems aren’t ‘desperate,’ they’re naughty, incorrigible, precocious, stimulating and exhilarating.” Even more, these sexy poems are written by some great poets (with buttons undone for our viewing pleasure!), such as Noah Eli Gordon, Catherine Daly, Amy King, Ravi Shankar, Shanna Compton, and Shin Yu Pai. Eighty-four poets focus on the sensual in this book, and that makes for anything but an ordinary anthology.
When I first picked up this book, the titles alone were titillating: “Überdesigned Happy Juice,” “After Ten Years Together, We Sneak Off to Make Out in Someone’s Closet,” “No Bra Required,” “The Vacuum.” After such titles, the poems have a steep task, but most of the poets are up to the work. Take this bit from Ravi Shankar’s “Simpatico”:
What exists but now, wet and pulmonary,
rinsed of context like two glasses used to mix a drink—
what’s not soluble in liquid exchange?
Personally, I’d trade my kingdom for your clavicle,
the chance to draw a bow across the viola of your hips.
Come on! Doesn’t that at least make you loosen your collar? In this excerpt alone, we’ve a sense of carpe diem combined with the sensual “wet and pulmonary” thrown on top of a delicate touch of the hips. That’s good. Other poets in this collection are no less adept at depicting desire, the problems of declining desire, or the complications of love.
At this point if you are thinking, anyone can write about sex; what’s the big deal? These poets explore desire (and its surrounding friends) from a variety of angles. Take, for example, a selection from Shin Yu Pai’s “tie me up, tie me down”:
the Western tradition:
in the land of the rising sun:
a feudal obsession with sex
In this excerpt Shin Yu Pai explores sex as a colonized thing or sex as a violent colonizing agent. It would be hard to say she’s writing about just sex. In her piece, as in many of this collection’s poems, sex is multilayered beyond the many layers it already has on a person-to-person level. That in itself is a reason to go out and buy this book. Just make sure you’re not alone when reading it!
William Allegrezza teaches and writes from his base in Chicago. His poems, articles, and reviews have been published in several countries, including the U.S., Holland, Finland, the Czech Republic, and Australia, and are available in many online journals. Also, he is the editor of moria, a journal dedicated to experimental poetry and poetics, and the editor-in-chief of Cracked Slab Books. His books include The Vicious Bunny Translations, covering over, Temporal Nomads, Lingo, and Ladders in July.