As many of you know, I have a distaste and distrust of industry poets I don't think they all are bad or that they are all bad, but I am wary of them.
Being industry poets, they publish more than anyone else because they all know each other. That means that they really easily publish garbage. Anyone permitted to publish everything they write will look bad very quickly. Noah Eli Gordon suffers from such an affliction.
When I saw that Lame House Press published Claire Becker, I thought it would be more of the industry and less of the poet I would find within her chapbook. The cover, though, was weird and interesting, and I met Claire once, and we even emailed a couple times about a mutual enemy, so I bought it and found out that my prejudice, regarding her book at least, was for the most part unfounded. If she published less, I would probably have intrepidly jumped into her chapbook, though.
Some of the poems in Untoward are infused with the magic that one hopes for from poetry but has come to not look for in books by poets of her ilk. There are poems in this little book that give a reader that sad little laugh at the end that surprises because you forgot that laugh still existed. There are other poems that are charmingly sweet or self-conscious. Still there are others that are carefully pensive and moody. The chapbook seems to have everything.
Unfortunately, "everything" means some stinkers, too. The poem "Three Easy Sentences," a poem about God and Punctuation is mildly annoying due to the stench of workshop that lingers on it. Similarly, "Claire Becker, 25" is fairly immature and overly "poor me" but probably went over well in a workshop at St. Mary's, where Claire earned her MFA. There are some poems whose titles nearly ruin them, but nothing is as bad as the last poem in the collection, "Apparent Scruples, Obvious Fuss," which comes close to spoiling all the ground won by its preceding pages. It's a poem I hate at the end of a book I kind of loved. If it weren't for that poem, I would have written in the title of this review, "MUST BUY!"
So overall, it's a pretty good chapbook that deserves attention and certainly shows that my statements regarding MFA people and the creative writing industry should be less absolute. It also shows how Claire Becker is turning into a poet people need to watch. If she surrounds herself with critical and honest people, her full-length book, which I am sure we'll see within a couple years, will be really great.