Book Review: The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney
The Kind of Beauty That Has Nowhere to Go
Poems by Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney
Hyacinth Girl Press, September 2013
Reviewed by Gina Vaynshteyn
Hyacinth Girl Press produces chapbooks that look intricately hand-made and personal, ribbon wrapped parcels. This small, feminist press publishes up to six chapbooks each year and focuses on spirituality, mythology, and science. Essentially, Hyacinth Girl Press is out there.
In The Kind of Beauty that Has Nowhere to Go, Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney provide their readers with snippets of wisdom and advice, like pulps of necessary truth. The poems, which all start with “Some Notes on,” focus on the undeniable elements of being, such as remorse, romance, foolishness, and snobbery. Everything is applicable; nothing doesn’t resonate. Each poem contains about twelve lines that concern themselves with the same topic, but disconnect with each other, reading like foreign proverbs that have been resurrected and given modernity. The speaker in “Some Notes on Nostalgia” states, “How young can one be and still experience nostalgia? Very young –nostalgia makes us scream as we exit the womb.”
Gabbert and Rooney grasp the cliché and pull it apart. In “Some Notes on Remorse” the speaker states, “Don’t even try to tell me that swans mate for life. Do swans seem normal to you?” This critique on monogamous relationships is blatant and parallels the line, “They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but you make me wish I’d never been born.” The speaker never lets her guard down, but she does convey a sense of realism that is also present in other poems.
This chapbook finds strength in pop culture references. In “Some Notes on Snobbery” the speaker says, “Everyone knows you take off your glasses to flirt. You can push them up on your head, but don’t wear them at the back like Guy Fieri.” This imagery, both extremely playful and sarcastic, highlights the addictive voice both Gabbert and Rooney have, a voice that speaks to a younger generation with no apologies. In the same poem, the speaker directs, “Whatever you’re drinking, it should be non-alcoholic, because getting drunk while you watch TV is so sophomore year.” The speaker judges, already assuming the worst in people.
The Kind of Beauty That has Nowhere to Go is whimsical yet studious. In “Some Notes on the Weird,” the speaker, always self aware, says, “This is not a disquisition. It’s an essay, in the antiquated sense of an attempt…” This juxtaposition between playful and academic reflects upon the way we are multi-dimensional, the way we are all “weird.” The real beauty of this chapbook is that it masterfully conveys the human condition without exploiting the confessional. The Kind of Beauty That has Nowhere to Go is a set of suggestions, a collection of raw slices of offerings.
Gina Vaynshteyn is currently studying poetry in San Diego and has work published or forthcoming in PANK, Treehouse, Milksugar, and The California Journal of Women Writers. She regularly writes for Hellogiggles and The Rumpus. You should read her thoughts on breakfast cereal and quasi-politics on Twitter @ginainterrupted.