Venus in View, by Brynne McAdoo (Wethersfield, Conn.: Bottle Rockets Press, 2005). 39 pages, 4" x 5", saddle-stapled. No ISBN. $6 postpaid ($7 Canada & Mexico, $8 everywhere else) from Stanford M. Forrester, PO Box 290691, Wethersfield, CT 06129.
The flyer for this book of erotic haibun, haiku, and senryu warns "Not for sale to minors or the prudish …” so one can be excused for initially thinking that this is another pop culture spin on haiku that is more shock value than substance. But that is not the case here. Erotic poetry is a tricky proposition. It asks its reader to be comfortable with someone else’s intimate details, often without a larger emotional context that keeps the poem from feeling pointlessly voyeuristic. Since the majority of Venus in View consists of haibun, it avoids that pitfall, providing a human landscape upon which the poem can stand.
Tucked between a few independent haiku and senryu, six haibun tell the story of pseudonymous Brynne McAdoo’s search for love among an ever-changing cast of partners — a seemingly doomed search full of few praiseworthy male characters. It is this underlying search for a connection more than just the physical that gives the book its foundation. While the sexual aspects of the relationships are emphasized, it is really a book about modern love and the tacks people take to capture it. In "Breastless,” a vignette in which her current boyfriend offers to buy her breast implants, the poems work well within the prose. In fact, throughout the volume the poems are of a consistent quality.
… he whined, "Baby, I wouldn’t bring it up if you weren’t a keeper.” Now I wince at that choice of words.
on the chopping board
And later in "Anosmia Affair,” a story about the flirtatious advances of a married man, we watch her enjoy and almost consider his advances,
new crush —
in forgotten places
but then finally resolve,
can’t be my lover —
prick of a cactus blooming
While there isn’t much subject distance between the poems and the prose, something haibun often aim for, in this case, due to the prose’s confessional tone we wouldn’t want there to be, and in fact, such a distance would make the protagonist’s issues almost abstract instead of human. That there is a real person behind the lines that we empathize with and root for makes these haibun work. While McAdoo is continuously stuck on the wrong side of romance, she accepts her fate humorously with a near-fatal optimism. A wonderfully funny moment occurs when the protagonist, after being stood up during a nor’easter blackout, uses the batteries from a flashlight for her vibrator. Yet this humor is well balanced by the ever-present reality.
After a rekindled dinner with an ex-lover in another haibun,
As my lips find his, I know he is as imaginary as a lullaby and as real as a bruise. Later tonight, I will fall asleep, nestled in a dream of his arms. And tomorrow I will wake to an emptiness that fills every gaping, longing space within me. But now I do not care.
of my ex-lover —
The independent poems suffer a bit from the aforementioned lack of emotional context. But many are humorous nonetheless. They include,
with the lilacs she comes out
after he googles me
the pleasure of
but also the delightful,
I give him a haiku
I try to keep sight
of the firefly
Brynne McAdoo has put together a wonderfully interesting and original collection that should be read without emphasis on the seemingly lurid.