July 2008



(The following review originally appeared in Rain Taxi Review of Books, Volume 13, No. 2.)

Annoying Diabetic Bitch
by Sharon Mesmer
Combo Books ($13.95)

Review by Tim W. Brown

To appreciate Sharon Mesmer’s new poetry collection, Annoying Diabetic Bitch, one has to understand its genesis. In the book’s postscript, Mesmer describes her process of composition, dubbed “Flarf” by her poet-friend Gary Sullivan:

[A] handful of poets with full-time jobs and little time to write were entering outrageous and/or inappropriate word combinations into the Google search engine and making poems out of the results, then emailing them around to each other. Lines from the emailed poems could then be reworked. . . and sent around again for further recombining.

The reader may notice that the Flarf method resembles the writing games — like collage, exquisite corpse, and automatic writing — promoted by the surrealist writer and propagandist André Breton. Such processes are intended to bypass rational, purposeful thinking and tap into the subconscious, where a more authentic truth is believed to reside. In less-practiced hands than Mesmer’s, Flarf-derived poems could easily lapse into nonsense. The particular genius of this book lies in how Mesmer draws on the universal Id that is the Internet and creates poems with strong speakers baring their deepest thoughts and desires.

Echoing the Web’s collective fascination with celebrity, movie stars and pop idols appear regularly in Mesmer’s work. The reader is treated, for example, to an extended meditation on actor Jake Gyllenhaal walking his dog, together with poems containing references to cultural icons like Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Marilyn Manson, Jimi Hendrix, Paris Hilton, and Harry Whittington, the man Dick Cheney accidentally shot while hunting quail.

“Atomic Bitch Wax” envisions a conversation between Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen while they sit in New York’s Washington Square Park:

MARY KATE: I love the 50 daily effects of white privilege. Native Americans don’t bitch about how the Olsen Twins raped and pillaged their people.

ASHLEY: No, they love forced feminization!

Some of the most arresting poems in Annoying Diabetic Bitch expose the secrets of ordinary ”fucktards” and “asshats.” The speaker of “My Insecurities” confesses:

I’ve really put Jesus through some things.
But when I think about how great Jesus was,
and still is,
how he knows me and can deal with it,
I start feeling sure about my equipment.
God’s grace took
all my insecurities

The Flarf method hardly results in good poetry all of the time, but at least eighty percent of Annoying Diabetic Bitch is quite solid, boasting a higher batting average than many books written using more orthodox techniques. Mesmer’s book is lewd, crude, politically incorrect — and hilarious. It’s also the freshest poetry collection many readers will have seen in a long time.


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