“Mortification, I’ve known your corpse lips. / I’ve undone your pants, reached in to make / balloon animals” (“Epistle, Many-Pronged” lines 1-3).
I have so much love for collections that aren’t afraid to get messy. The ones that are weird and wonderful, dark and funny. Nothing has marked my summer better than Cate Marvin’s Oracle. I’ve been feeling all the feels for the past two months now as I live vicariously through the speaker in Oracle, because she isn’t afraid to take imaginative leaps and stand up against misogyny. Through this collection, readers are introduced to the fierce and witty world of Cate Marvin.
Because of their honesty and sharp humor, some of my favorite poems in Oracle are the high school series poems. The poem “High school: Industrial Arts” does a great job of introducing readers to the sarcasm in Oracle. Readers will fall in love as the speaker instructs students to “make something that no one can use that / no one wants. Don’t ask why. It builds character. / Someday you’ll look back on these days fondly” (lines 17-19). Despite the mater-of-fact nature of the poem, and the brilliantly executed irony, Marvin makes a sincere and empowering statement for feminism: “This is a man’s / work. You, wipe that smirk off your face. Last / thing I need is one of you girls dying on my watch” (lines 23-25). It’s this satire that I admire each time I pick up Oracle.
Aside from the irony, I also really enjoy the bluntness in the speaker’s voice, which is juxtaposed with the unique images in each poem. Just when readers think they know what’s coming next, Oracle twists language in a way that keeps them on their toes: “When it becomes obvious // you aren’t here anymore, and my head’s dented in / with sadness, I must admit that I like to imagine it” (Dead Dog God-Head” lines 36-38). Page by page, Oracle will shock you in all of the best ways.
In total, the collection is 93 pages. The book is hardcover, which is something I appreciated. Upon buying this collection, you can expect lots of dead dogs, cheap wine, flawed adolescence, and a totally badass speaker. In other words, you need Oracle in your life. Like, now.
Cover of Oracle courtesy of W.W. Norton & Company.
Buy Marvin’s collection here.
*As part of my goal to promote small presses, here is some information about W.W. Norton & Company: ” . . . Now, in its 90th year and with an annual list of 400 titles, W. W. Norton is a global company, its familiar seagull logo appearing on books in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Latin America. Though the Norton of today is international in scope, there is much about the company that would remain recognizable to its founders: the editorial quality of the books, the rigorously anti-corporate style, and above all the shared sense of purpose that flourishes when all employees have a stake in the success of their firm.” Read more at W.W. Norton & Company. *
Check out Marvin’s website here.