Nin Andrews is the Wonder Woman of poetry. Her golden lasso is the prose poem, a form she’s mastered with more dexterity and wit. (Just read her moving, hilarious, and highly educational 2000 collection The Book of Orgasms for proof.)
Andrews’ latest book, Southern Comfort (CavanKerry Press) is a superb volume for both dedicated readers of poetry and anyone looking for an apparent autobiography in poetic form. Born to, as the dust jacket says, “a southern father and a northern mother,” Andrews’ subjects include a the death of her grandmother, the ghosts her “daddy” sees, the mysteries of a Southern accent, and wasps and centipedes and earthworms and bees, and a boy named Jimmy in poems and prose poems including this one, called “Summer”:
Sometimes in the middle of the day, Jimmy and I’d rest on the upside-down feed buckets beside the sugar maples, sip Cokes and talk about our dreams, maybe watch the horses slurp water and swish off gadflies. Jimmy talked about Sarah Lee, his girl (he liked to say so long after she wasn’t). Then he would lie back with his ball cap over his face while I fished dead frogs out of the trough. I’d think about what it’s like to be the girl every boy talks to about the girl he likes. Sometimes I watched him sleep until the lizards ran out to wait by the water for insects to light. If I wanted to, I’d pick off their tails and show them to Jimmy when he woke.
I wrote “apparent autobiography” a while back there because Andrews is also a devillish poet. If all you’d ever read of Andrews was Southern Comfort, you’d think you were dealing with a straightforward gal reminiscing about her colorful childhood, spinning yarns and telling true tales.
But if you’ve read more than one Andrews volume, you know that she is also, at various times, possessed of a slashing sarcasm, of a confident knowledge of Kafka, William James, and how angels manifest themselves in everyday lives. She assumes different identities. She radiates a powerful assurance in writing about sex, romance, and loneliness. She’s a sly sophisticate, a raucous verse-maker, a mischievous observer with a long memory.
You could not do much better to begin your new year by reading Nin Andrews’ Southern Comfort.