Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Book Review: Amphetamine Heart, by Liz Worth

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2013
Images from the Internet


Amphetamine Heart
First Poets Series 10

Written by Liz Worth
Illustrations by Amanda Flynn (diamandatattoo.com)

Guernica (Toronto / Buffalo / Lancaster, UK)
60 pages; 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55071-343-5

I usually don’t cover much in the poetry field. But we’re talking about Liz Worth, so that gets my attention. One only needs to check out her wise-beyond-her-years non-fiction tome Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond (reviewed HERE) http://ffanzeen.blogspot.ca/2010/04/book-review-treat-me-like-dirt-oral.html to know there is a lot more going on that is – er – worth the notice.

Sure, it’s a short book, in similar ways to punk poet laureate Patti Smith’s many releases, such as Wītt, but there is a lot hiding under the covers. Like Smith (I’m guessing an influence), and possibly Richard Hell, Worth digs deep and uncovers some beauty in several not very pretty places. For example, in “Second Guessing,” she posts:
From this side of the door
the sounds of dry heaves
are the same as orgasms:
There’s no room between gasps
for second guessing;
it’s all about the volatility
of involuntary reactions.

Liz Worth
The book is both directly and subtly full of – if you’ll pardon the cliché – sex and drugs and rock’n’roll. But even more so, it’s about the post-period, of awakening with both the physical and emotional aches and pains, and occasional scars that result from previous actions. In other words, the focus is not on the glamorous side of the party, but when you awake the next day.

The book title could have also been called Rock ‘n’ Roll Heart, because while the prose is not necessarily conducive to the usual stanza / stanza / chorus / stanza / chorus framework, there is a core to it that bends in relation to the harder sounds of that movement. The book jacket mentions punk and heavy metal. I may argue with the latter, as metal is generally a bit too modulated and structured, but it certainly could co-exist with the former in a jarring way, as with the punk poets I mentioned earlier.

This book can arguably be summed up in one word, actually, and that is attitude. It’s cranky, painfully self-aware, and a bit desperate in its craggy lineage. Right from the first lines of the opening poem, “Definitions,”
We shared cigarettes swapped in time with the circular motions of cats about to pounce with backs up like blades, protecting against plagiarized emotions.
we are introduced into an underworld that is soaked in a substance too stained to sustain a healthy relationship with either another or the present world. Like A Clockwork Orange, it’s a culture where emotional violence is the norm, but not accepted by the zeitgeist.

Even when she gets so personal that she’s cryptic in her pining, we familiar with the punk and rock world can associate the emotion that bursts from the chest, such as with “In No State”:
Light in the eyes
bring the head into
the minute the
body becomes fluid.
Through sugared dissonance
comes the phrase Six Two Eight
6 to 8
6 2 8.
Your detriment is imminent.
Wrists itch, sticky.

Liz Worth is a poet on the rise, and these indie books are going to be a sure collectors’ item, for good reason. While she may be too young to be considered part of the “Blank Generation,” the book does not whimper as much as scream out Punk rock!!

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