Review: Kristi Swadley's Water
Pistol Suicide Pose *
by Patricia Gomes
Author Kristi Swadley's chapbook, Water Pistol
Suicide Pose is number 43 in the Springfed Chapbook Series from Foothills Publishing. The fifteen poems in this meditative collection
taunt Death: should I, could I … what will happen if I do? Swadley's a temptress. More about that later.
Opening with An Autopsy of Sorts (note
the facetiousness in the title; her work is nothing if not facetious) Swadley warns her mark against getting closer; after
all, she may stick around, she may not:
" … i have grown tired of myself
you haven't known me long
i give away little bits of myself
to find which revelation
finally drives you away
what's your breaking point
i can flirt and tease
show you some of column A
dabble in column B
but when you ask for it all
i become … "
Ooooh, let me cut you off right there, boys—I can tease with the best of 'em.
Swadley wants us closer—she doesn't fool
me for a second—and like any talented chanteuse, will reach deep into her sequined bag of tricks to keep us interested:
" …have you placed me on a
did i hoist myself up there
so i can point a finger at you
blame you for my inevitable
i will sit upon said pedestal
look down from such
the fall will break me …"
This poem, all well as the rest, are a textbook
study in mood swings. She's hot; she's cold.
Every raw nerve is vibrating and visible—and you are stepping on them.
I advise you to get the hell out of her way.
" … this is not what
i wanted for myself
i was smiling
just a second ago
my mind slipped
back a bit
i was in my
again … "
— from The Day
I Lost Direction
Swadley's lines are terse—there is no clutter,
no unnecessary verbiage that would only draw your attention away from her conclusions.
You will witness paranoia, fear, over-confidence, irony, and conceit causing your head to spin, but when you're done,
you will know what complexity really means.
Sounds like I like the poems, doesn't it? I do. And I know exactly what my regular
readers are thinking: "Pat, most of the poems here contain no line end punctuation—you despise poems without line end
punctuation!" Calm down, normally that's true, but in the case of Water Pistol
Suicide Pose, I approve whole-heartedly of Swadley's choice to ride bareback. The
longest lines in the whole chapbook are only six words; I wasn't kidding when I said terse.
Punctuation would only screw up the economy.
Near the end of the chap you'll find a cluster
of poems that, in my opinion, should have opened the book because it's these five where Swadley's in-yer-face cockiness (a
trait that will either repulse or delight the reader; this reviewer is delighted) is most evident. The titles are as direct as their content: What I Know; What I'll Never Find Out; What
I've Found Out; What I've Lost, and What I've Got.
In each, the stanzas are antithetic, alternating
betwixt-n-between (as is Swadley's propensity). What makes this grouping stand
above the rest is her forthright openness. The poems are the point-blank admissions
that insomniacs are all too familiar with, for only under cover of darkness do we so thoroughly confront ourselves.
Ms. Swadley may be a "young author," but she is
urbane. Had I been half as prudent at her age, I'd have saved myself a bundle
I refuse to excerpt more.
C'mon—it's a chapbook; if I quoted from
every single poem in this modest collection, why would you buy it? Give us all
a break and support poetry by unzipping your wallet once in awhile, fuhgawdsake?
Deep breath, deep breath … step down
off the dais.
I like Swadley's style—she's smug. I like smug. Gypsy Rose Lee was smug;
I liked Gypsy Rose Lee. Mizz Gypsy was a tease.
So is Swadley. "Here's a peek, boys—don't tell Mama!" Mizz Gypsy knew who she was and what she was doing … so does Swadley, though
she wants you to believe she's still tottering on the fence. I didn't totter. I found balance in her unsteadiness and I believe that's the purpose of this lil'
black-stitched, blue-covered assemblage.
The final poem, Uncertain Future, was the
perfect choice to end what, for the reader, will be a Whirl-a-Gig ride. It's
a gem; it's finding a ten-spot in the pocket of an old coat. Okay, okay—I'll
give you this one for two reasons: 1.) because it has line end punctuation, and
2.) because it'll end my rambling opine seamlessly. Consider it a gift.
Happiness is death
for an angry poet.
So, what shall my
Here lies Kristi:
One angry bitch
Until someone made
My life was not complete
unless there was a new drama,
an outrage to vent.
of my bullshit.
Such a bright light,
overwhelmed by shadow.
He wants to disperse
I want to relent,
give over myself.
Did you hear me?
I want it more than
I ever knew.
* * *
Kristi Swadley is an editor/publisher/writer based in the Midwest. She
is currently enjoying her stint as an assistant editor for Lily, A Monthly
Online Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Ygdrasil, Unlikely Stories 2.0,
Litvision and is forthcoming in Real Eight View and the inaugural issue of Lorraine
Water Pistol Suicide Pose is available
for purchase at Foothills Publishing.
* As appears in the
July 2005 edition of Adagio Verse Quarterly