Under the idyllic and pastoral cover, The Stranger Manual by…
Let me start out by saying that I am no expert on poetry. The following review is based not on the formal structure of a poem, or what poetry should or shouldn’t be, but based strictly on my love for the written word. Friends of mine would tell you that I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry. Most of it I don’t understand, and if I I do get it . . . well, how good can it be? Doesn’t poetry have to rhyme? (kidding) Actually, friends who know me quite well are aware that I have been expanding my horizons as of late – reading and listening to more poetry. Some I’ve been impressed with. Most of it – eh. Then a friend of mine sent me Girls with Red Hair on Cherry Cadillacs with Bushido Swords by VictoriaSelene Skye-Deme. Just the title told me this was not going to be any ordinary book. The cover alone looks like it could be an advertisement for a Quentin Tarantino movie (a cross between “Kill Bill” and “Grindhouse”).
“For my beautiful women who rise from the gutter into diamond escapades every single day of their lives, who surmount every obstacle and crush every stereotype into fine powder wisps and out of the ash reshape the world’s expectations into their own brand of fire.” And that’s just the first part of the dedication. From there, I knew this book was going to be something special.
This is poetry that I have never experienced before. Skye-Deme’s words come out as raw emotion torn from her soul. And unless you have no feeling at all, it will blast into yours like a cannon shot. Most of the poems are autobiographical with fantasy thrown in (at least that’s the sense I got). It opens with “Gutter Girls,” a creative little revenge piece to a man who shouldn’ta oughta done what he done.
. . . and slowly worked him in between the bars of her hard soul until he came to the conclusion that her dazzling smile had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with humiliation . . .” p.9
Harlan Ellison drained me emotionally with his short story “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs.” Skye-Deme did the same with her poem, “This is How the Horses Scream.” I actually had to put the book down for a couple minutes after reading that one. That, and “You Created Women Like Us – Then You Bitch About Women Like Us” are two incredibly gut-wrenching poems.
Interlaced throughout the book VictoriaSelene throws in snippets of her life. She had a childhood that no child should ever have to endure. Between sickness and abuse it’s amazing that she’s alive today (she actually did die at one point and was brought back). The abuse that she had to deal with was horrific. And like so many abuse victims she tells it from an outsider’s point of view, looking in. There is no sense at all of ‘oh woe is me.’ Totally opposite of her poetry, it’s told very matter-of-fact with an emotionless voice (the contrast works amazingly well). And like so many children of abuse, that pattern followed her into adulthood. Many of the poems document the anger and violence she experienced. She writes about her own anger and hate toward the violence from men (emotional and physical), and finally fighting back to break that cycle. Please, don’t get the feeling that I think Skye-Deme is anti-men. Not true. I believe that she hates injustice of any kind, and no matter the gender. There’s a wonderful snippet of a random act of kindness that I dare you not to smile at the end. There are also a number of poems of love and hope, like “Daughters” and “You Feel Like Silk to Me” among many others.
“Girls with Red Hair on Cherry Cadillacs with Bushido Swords” is a book that needs to be savored. I read it way too fast the first time. I am now reading it again, slowly, and already getting so much more out of each poem. If this is what poetry has been, I’ve really missed out and have a lot of catching up to do. But I have a feeling that this is cutting edge and is going to lead the way to a new era.
A small passage from the poem “Welcome to this Book of Me”
. . . and let me eat the book of you
as I feed you mine.” p.75