If I Could Give You a Line
Winner of the Akron Poetry Prize from University of Akron Press,
selected by Erika Meitner
If I Could Give You a Line is not only a brilliant, associative meditation on every kind of conceptual and material line—it’s also a powerful ontological and epistemological treatise on what it means to be an artist and a mother in twenty-first century America. Via ekphrasis, ars poetica, and lyric essay, Carrie Oeding brings the world into these poems with grace and wit; Kim Kardashian and Kiefer Sutherland live alongside Susan Sontag and James Turrell, all coexisting with the detritus of motherhood: wet wipes, strollers, Band-aids, Purell—creating poems that are simultaneously heady and corporeal. With humor, doubt, intelligence, cynicism, and ultimately strength, Oeding fiercely asserts her presence in these poems, pushing against a society that sees mothers as erasures or containers when she writes, “I am painting myself in. I am so not pretend….”
Kacey Musgraves “Late to the Party” never ceases to amaze me, as the message that its lyrics send—which is more or less “My beloved and I need not attend this party”—is so deftly countered by the song’s weirdly yearning timbre, the message of which is, to my ears at any rate, “I really want to go to this party, preferably alone.” The poems herein have more to say about parenting than about partying, but they affect me similarly—they don’t pit joy against regret, but rather harmonize those two inevitabilities, thus making a music to which I find myself smashing my prayers into my thoughts like dolls. Carrie Oeding’s second book is here, but to call it “on time” would be beside the point. Better, I think, to call it damn good and
While the lines on offer in Carrie Oeding's second poetry collection, If I Could Give You A Line, may seem to concern the quotidian, their reverberations are conceptual and far-reaching. In purposeful, finely-rendered prose, Oeding draws the nuance and complexity out of the everyday with insight and intelligence. "Every day is a public day," she writes. What has been an experience of solitude for the artist is made relational in ways we might anticipate. "I feel hostile toward others lately. I won't want to think too much about it, but I suspect lately means several years. How can I write. Everyone is an audience we post for and don't want near us. What is it to make anything outside of this space?"
When does a line become something more complex, more dimensional, something that can hold a world? Reading these poems is having an intimate conversation with your smartest friend about trying to hold it all, with humor, frustration, desire, and grace. Standing in line, drawing a line, writing a line — "I am just holding this ladder so no one will fall." In this generous and moving collection, Oeding's close observations allow us to consider the everyday anew, and find new inspiration in all that we make for each other.
— Mary-Kim Arnold
Our List of Solutions
Winner of the Lester M Wolfson Prize from 42 Miles Press/University of Indiana South Bend
We drift from one friend s barbecue to another, trading urgent small talk about chicken omelets and whether or not spiders stick to spider webs. We garden, never satisfied with what we have planted. We date people, and then we date other people, and then, alone, we kiss the backs of our own hands. And all the while we are filled with longing, seeking transcendence, some fantastic and extraordinary reprieve from our mundane reality. Dear bright autumn trees, surprise me, writes Carrie Oeding in Our List of Solutions, elsewhere exclaiming, incredulously, Wet lottery tickets littered on the walking path to work, the fingernails that pierced the apples I want to buy these dirty moons, is this all I have? The images that I m to make something lovely with. This is a startling, distinctively smart and stylish debut.
If you have lost your ability to lose your way in the dance, these poems of jittery disequilibrium are just what you need. . . . [L]et s twist our ankles.//Oh dumb legs, silly pregnant music,/stupid empty space between dancing bodies that longs not to be space./ Dancing is one way to have joy . . . Can t there be something besides dancing,/or maybe can t there be something besides joy?// . . . [W]hy does music just get to be music?Blending (and transcending) both gossip and self-interrogation, the poems keep fine-tuning themselves to ever-more-precisely refute all possible modes of self-satisfaction.
Carrie Oeding's speakers are so compulsively social and so comically anxious and irritable in their impatient yearning that their humanity comes alive; their dithery streaming flows from loneliness, from the separateness beneath loneliness. These women wield their gestures of mistrust, scorn and disappointment as fragile, provisional defenses against their own hungry romanticism. Revealing all this is a project whereby Oeding has attained an originality rare in contemporary poetry.