COLLEEN McKEE: MY HOT LITTLE TOMATO
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ISBN 978 0 9748468 5 9
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|COLLEEN McKEE: MY HOT LITTLE TOMATO|
A selection of 21 pieces, mostly verse, with a couple of prose poems. The poems have a strong, even fetishistic emphasis on the senses (taste, perception of colour, texture, and so on), often to do with organic produce, as evinced by the selection's title; the sexual connotations are explicit in SIMKHELE:
And you're laughing with you hand over your mouth, but then you want to kiss me, so you do: you taste like Kalamata olives, like wine, like stories, my hands are full of crimson-gold hair...In BLUE LIKE AN ORANGE, riding home by bus and holding a pumpkin on her lap, she writes that
I wear a dress the color of lettuceand later that
Somehow I know the bus has turned yellow, that yellow only buses can be.In the preface to the poems, Colleen McKee engagingly explores the subject of the tomato, or, more exactly, its manifestation as ketchup, and the role it played in her mother meeting her father and her own consequent arrival upon this earth. Here she is, in THE WOMAN WHO CARVED HERSELF FROM CHOCOLATE, a prose poem, getting very excited about munching chocolate, where the sensuous abandon of licking chocolate becomes, or is the act of making love:
chewing the chocolate with my square back teeth my teeth cut through the bar as sharp as scissors through a stack of fine silks the sound of the cut is so clean the fine sugar granules shifting the spit rounding gums & jaws in my earIn THE COFFEE CAKE a little romance takes place over, and is described in terms of the cake-crumbs of the couple's social (and, eventually, more intensely personal) intercourse, as shown by the following two extracts:
We tear off buttery crumbs of streusel cake, we roll them into spheres, sugary worlds of conversation... ** She picks at coffee streusel, she pinches at her cuffs, and then she's kissing me, an awkward, funny kiss, just barely licks my lips.Colleen McKee has a very vibrant sense of sexuality, a very tactile affinity with objects and people around her where feelings, senses and moods morph into one, as in THE DISHES HAVE BEEN PILING UP:
All our windows are open today. The sky slides up my neck like a lover.The infectious, unashamed licentiousness of her poetic vision is quite endearing, and her preoccupation with women and men she fancies, or her drooling over isolated or first kisses, and her equating of such passion with savoury cakes, for example, is so impulsively genuine as to be immune from undue annoyance or criticism on the reader's part. Here are three short extracts from a prose piece, WITH THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS UNDER THE SUN, which, wallowing in her delight with taste, consumption and the titillation of her body in its contact with outside elements, sums up her pagan embrace of simple physical egocentric pleasure:
Play my tongue over little baked circles on the underside of semmel, sweet jam swimming down my throat...Nonetheless, it would be wrong not to recognize the sexual bluntness, even the rather jolting earthiness of her predilections, poetic and personal, as in 21 ON 2.14:
i bought flowers and fucked you in the ass with my limber little fist you loved so wellOf course, her use of food stuffs and liquids that enter the mouth as images/metaphors to denote and describe her sexual orientation and fulfilment, as in LOVE POEM ON THE 70 GRAND, can be a little insistent and repetitive, and even at times overdone and trite:
My lips taste of butter, habanero, and salt, the scent of oil in your hair, a kiss at the scar on your temple, your morning smile like milk.Other poems deal with, refer to, or use images of oranges, cherries, tea, peaches, grapes, pear trees, and so on.
When poems deal with male lovers, something of her unabashed exuberance is missing, and there is even an element of self-abasement and low self-esteem, where she rather defensively or too cockily views herself as something of a slut, and as someone who gets abandoned, which is a little disturbing, as in THE LONG WEEKEND:
And I'm not the kind of girl You'd take home to a picnic.Also, when she strives for more fundamental truths, as in MOVING ON THE 4TH OF JULY, and tries to get serious, about the meaning of life and all that, her work loses its edge and becomes too self-consciously obscure. Her strength is in the unalloyed glorification of and wallowing in the physicality of her sexual universe, and its imagery, as in
the warm tomato redof her lover's hair in THE LONG WEEKEND. A collection that is well worth a look.
|reviewer: Alan Hardy.|