meat // machine
Astoria Felix, Words (on) Pages, wordsonpagespress.com
meat // machine, written by emerging poet Astoria Felix, and published by the Toronto micropublisher Words (on) Pages, is many things. Slipping between poetic forms, Felix’s chapbook feels like a choppy journal entry written over the stretch of a long, humid Toronto summer. With the title taken from what appears to be a rumination on a lost lover, it leaves readers reflecting less on the words that they just read and more on their own youth. This collection does not appear to shy away from its juvenile tone, but instead embraces it through imagery, style and theme.
There is much to be found wanting in this selection of poems. Most particularly, both in length and depth, the poems feel lacking. There is an attempted concentration on youth, but one that feels desperately superficial and missing any real confrontation of the book’s themes of youth, love, and bodies. A reader feels that if they could but shake the collection, an accordion of deeper distillations would unfold and develop the but-grazed meanings.
For its failings, Felix’s collection is not without merit (and Rossetti had a very similar juvenile collection, so let’s be level-headed about this). There is a sweet lovability to verse that is written with such abandon. Rarely, especially in contemporary poetry, do we read something that feels untouched by editors. With entire poems consisting of “There’s a circuit board in everyone’s brain. Some of them/crash when your first lover spits in your face, others/when their dog got hit by a neighbour’s car. I cracked/my skull against the pavement; a walnut in a christmas/cracker.” the verses feel like a selection of stained cocktail napkins bundled up and sent directly to the printer.
I would love to see Felix spending more time with her verses, using her obvious keen and capable turn of phrase to catalogue more than what feels like the contents of a linty turned out jeans’ pocket.
meat // machine is to be enjoyed with an apple juice or other non-alcoholic beverage allowing for easy transport back to a time of innocence and self-discovery. A reader is encouraged to suspend (too much harsh) criticism and extract from the anthology their own meanings of first kisses, summer fucking and a constant return to “eyelashes”. (Lyndsay Kirkham)