In my recent microreview & interview of House of McQueen (Four Way Books) by Valerie Wallace, I note how Wallace’s interrogation of the observable and imaginative aspects of Alexander McQueen’s work, and how the two suggest and influence each other, makes for compelling lyric meditations. Furthermore, there is a parallel conversation between the observable and imaginative occurring in the collection on the level of craft, as Wallace writes into and opens up McQueen’s world for her readers through ekphrasis, collage, and other formal poetic moves.
The poem below – “Haute Couture” – is a good example of the formal conversation that underlies House of McQueen. This poem takes on the acrostic form by taking a quote from McQueen himself – “At the end of the day they’re only clothes” – and placing each word of it as the first word of each line. This form suits the overall vision of House of McQueen in a number of ways. First, by the very nature of the acrostic form, we have McQueen’s voice embedded in the body of the poem however indirectly. Also, that the quote itself can be read vertically while Wallace’s poem can be read horizontally echoes the way Wallace “reads” into McQueen’s work both here and throughout her collection.
House of McQueen is an inspiring book for the risks and routes it takes into the possibilities inherent in language and visual art. Because our lives are dually complex and private, we end up learning about each other as we learn from words; that is, by conjecturing and connecting with what is around in the life of a person. The acrostic form here does just that: By playing off of McQueen’s actual statement and presenting Wallace’s own lyrical flight, what is conjured in the act of the poem is a poetic space that is part McQueen, part Wallace. In short, the form is itself a visual representation of the observable and imaginative elements at work in Wallace’s collection.
Haute Couture – Valerie Wallace
Alexander McQueen acrostic
At the first, a promise to share the fireflies in your brain with
the crickets in my brain, gift the heart-shaped apricot at my
end for your bunspark unpuckered, your stalk of young maple in the gorge
of the river you brought with you. Reach your hand in this fashion.
The discovery of how to really bite dark cherries. Swollen bordercall into me into yourself
day in day out. Arm :: swan :: fumble :: ruddle :: winker :: fist :: throttle into the unforgiving current gathering stones.
They’re spun from their beds and they are comprehended. I know you are
only, no matter how we relish this thing we do. Look at us, our radiant cooling. Relinquish your
clothes. I’ll cut you mine.
to learn about Valerie Wallace’s work, visit her site.