Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Review of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness

I recently learned that Julia Bloch wrote a brief review of That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (a book of collaborative poems I wrote with Kathy Rooney) a while back. It was meant to appear in Bitch, but we never got a copy, and in fact it's unclear if it ever ran. Julia was kind enough to send it to me, and with her permission I'm reprinting the review in full here. (Thanks, Julia!)
That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness Elisa Gabbert and Kathleen Rooney {otoliths}

Taking its title from a line by the German Realist poet Theodor Storm (who supposedly invoked it while sitting at his desk), this fine collection of poems is one of the better examples of what can often be a painfully precious approach to writing: the email collaboration. Gabbert and Rooney make many well-executed forays into received form (ghazals, sonnets), Oulipo experimental form (the systematic and crazy-making exclusion of letters), and their own formal inventions (from Rooney’s blog: “count ’em ups, limited freedoms, and out of orders”). They then bat them out of the park with winning titles like “Abercrombie Addresses Fitch,” “The Moving Walkway Is Ending” and “About Poetry”: “No one said I couldn’t use the word / Pobiz. A doe-eyed girl drinking sloe gin / fizzes is one way to begin; another / way may be stupid & completely false / but there’s no right & wrong in the world / of toasts & wedding poems.” The first few lines may sound pat, overly rhythmical even, but then Gabbert and Rooney mark that blurry line between formal closure and social triumphalism: “After all, getting in bed / w/ your enemy is delicate business / for delicate people like me & my friends.” In many places, language is rendered strange, even when it seems to be making sense on the surface of things, as in “The Facts of Life”: “The moan below the dial tone after you call— / under the FOIA, that should be a sing-along, / & we should be having more sex acts. / Shorter is better, but only with songs.” That Tiny is full of clipped witticisms like this, but never quite gets too ahead of itself. —Julia Bloch


  1. I didn't know you were a fan of the Oulipo! I wrote my final thesis paper in Germany (in German)on the Oulipo and have been entranced with their play ever since.

  2. We love Oulipo. We love any formal approach that makes poetry more like a game. A very serious game!


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