5/16/2022 0 Comments
Rachael Crosbie’s new chapbook, Peanut [the cat] auditions as Courage […from Courage the Cowardly Dog], embraces the classic, Nickelodeon speculative horror cartoon as a template to unpack the lived terrors and traumas of a harmful, romantic relationship. Crosbie’s beloved animalfriend is cast as Courage, bearing witness to the experiences her owner endures and doing her best to offer care and empathy in the aftermath. Whereas Courage’s owners are rarely fully aware of the danger they are in on the show, Crosbie closely examines, deconstructs, and embodies the physical and psychological tolls from their relationship with Him to answer, as they write, what haunts you the most?
Through their deft use of imagery, texture and sensory engagement in their writing, Crosbie makes their reader feel where anxiety and terror live in the body after the trauma of Him. In their poem [episode 5, The Computer], they write, you only exist for play and pleasure and all your pleas for help look like minor tremors, the kind you’d get from being out in the sun too long. In another poem, they write, you can always be His if He breaks and buries you enough. Each poem is vibrant with physical reflex, with reaction to both memory and remembering, from cold mattresses and taste-erasing whiskey to Peanut’s soft fur acting as brief moments of comfort through the healing process. Peanut thinks you’re dead and sniffs you, curling up on your chest and purring warmth in you. Throughout the collection, Peanut stands vanguard, as Courage would, concerned for the wellbeing and happiness of her human, a stand-in for His’ failings as a romantic partner.
Crosbie employs innovating templates for several of their poems’ form and syntax, many based on a series of classic games, such as Bingo, Operation, and the Ms. Paint computer program. The juxtaposition between the intended joy of these childhood play things and the painful reflections positioned within their structures simultaneously grabs the reader’s attention and highlights their emotional impact. In their brilliantly crafted poem, [lost episode of a maze], Crosbie turns a multicursal maze into a kind of twisting contrapuntal, a choose-your-own-path of language that reads through to a completed line, no matter which direction you follow. Their poems also observe a playful use of thematically appropriate portmanteaus, such as crunchyscream and deadhearted.
Crosbie’s collection is a still-tender unpacking of the bad days and the bad days that followed for anyone who’s been put through the ringer of a bad relationship and was lucky enough to have a loving quadruped to see them through to the other side.
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