It was, as is so often the case, the cover that caught my eye. I was in Unity Books, browsing the stacks for a bit of contemporary something or other. Something a little bit femme fatale suited my mood.
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Pretty Dirty Things by Michael Faudet is a collection of poetry, scraps, lines, and prose. I appreciate the mixture, though many of the individual lines (he calls them “quotes” – perhaps from people in his life?) miss the mark for me. Many of the early poems are quite good, but as one reads further, the poet begins to feel stuck. Like he’s pushing against something that won’t move.
If I had to pick a word for the collection, I’d call it naïve. Some of the poems here feel as if they’re trying too hard; they aim at sexy and just come off awkward, like a teenager trying their hand at writing porn. Others are charmingly innocent, sweet, heartfelt. Faudet is not a teenager; it is left for the reader to decide if the naïveté is a stumbling misstep or a deliberate return to something pure and unaffected. My opinion changes.
I expect many reviews are scathing, and there were times when reading that I rolled my eyes. Some pieces are more erotica than poetry. Faudet’s tastes range from the youthfully innocent to elements of BDSM, and the pure “male gaze” aspect can grow tiresome. Other pieces feel unfinished – and yet this works more often than it doesn’t. Like little scraps written in a girl’s journal, it gives one the impression of something scribbled late at night, pondered over, and then abandoned. I like the effect. We are more willing to accept this kind of thing from young women than mature men.
I prefer my poetry to have metre, if not rhyme, and it therefore should come as no surprise that my favourite pieces here are those that fall into this category: Teach Me and The Muse. I did not read this all at once, and I do not recommend doing so. When read one after another, the poems – all, more or less, on the same theme – begin to bleed together and feel repetitive. This is the kind of book one dips into when one is in the mood, reading two or three before setting it aside.
Whether or not the poet achieved his aims with this one, I cannot say. I suspect “a bit much in places, but occasionally achieves a naïve charm” is not quite what he had in mind. Nevertheless, when read from this perspective, I can’t say I disliked the collection. Pick it up, if you think it appeals, but take your time. Let it fall open. Perhaps let it inspire.