There is a time and place to be depressed.
After reading Bukowski in a Sundress, I feel like that time is all the time. I’m not sure that was Kim Addonizio’s intention, but the combination of black humour and dark personal essays is a lethal combination. And I love black humour. Mostly.
I realize that life isn’t all kittens and sunshine, despite Internet rumours to the contrary, but I sometimes wish it was. Bukowski in a Sundress is a unwelcome reminder that life is messy, brutal, difficult and a struggle even if you are “a writer.” Life doesn’t always end well. It doesn’t unroll neatly.
Addonizio writes about writing. She writes about affairs, breakups, drinking, her daughter, her dying mother, her bad writing, her mentally ill brother. More importantly, she writes about her feelings about all these things. She’s a cutting observer, slightly skeptical of her own choices or at least appearing to be. Everything is open to interpretation. It’s not always comfortable. I was aware, painfully, of my own judgements. Of my own interpretation.
I googled Addonizio’s mother (is there any way to do that without seeming creepy?) because her life as a pro tennis player sounded so interesting. Perhaps this is another way to keep someone with us: make them googleable.
Addonizio does not presume to give advice, even when she is supposed to because she has been hired to give a speech or a class. Her advice is wandering and some of it is disposable. Other bits ring true:
“Have an uncomfortable mind; be strange. Be disturbed: by what is happening on the planet, and to it; by the cruelty and stupidity humanity is capable of; by the unbearable beauty of certain music, and the mysteries and failures of love, and the brief, confusing, exhilarating hour of your own life.”
This bit is something we can all get right. And I might read Addonizio’s poetry again, if only to wallow in additional exhilarating chaos a little longer.
Kim Addonizio was at Events 61 (Poets in the House), 65 (The Confessional) and 83 (The Poetry Bash) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.