Poetry News

Mónica de la Torre Produces 'wild deadpan blitz' in The Happy End/All Welcome

By Harriet Staff
Monica de la Torre, Happy End All Welcome, cover

Fascinating pull-quote in this review of Mónica de la Torre's new book from Ugly Duckling Presse: "The achievement of The Happy End / All Welcome might be how far it goes to make institutional critique inextricable from representation of subjectivity," writes Nathaniel Rosenthalis for Boston Review.

The Happy End / All Welcome is set in a job fair inspired by the Nature Theater of Oklahoma in Kafka's unfinished novel Amerika; and also works as a response to Martin Kippenberger’s The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika” (1994). Kippenberger claims never to have read the Kafka, says Rosenthalis. More from his take:

Thus de la Torre puts the reader in a position (even before we read the first poem) to think back to the book’s sources and about what a source is, to consider the nature of a referential remove and to ask what effect, if any, such a layered accrual of removals has on our experience of a text. We also might ask what it means to refer back to something with the ontological wispiness of the open-ended—open-ended because unfinished, like the novel, or else undefined, like the job fair in the novel, said to be so expansive that no one knows where it ends.

De la Torre’s book-length fantasia on themes such as these (and others) is likewise expansive and inclusive. We encounter in The Happy End / All Welcome an unusual variety of familiar and unfamiliar chair types and odd job interviews and application processes. The poems take the forms of questionnaires, self-aware ad copies about the book itself, and typing and rapid reading tests, to name a few. The Happy End / All Welcome has no table of contents, which emphasizes the way that the book is meant to be walked through with no sense beforehand of what lies ahead. De la Torre has produced a wild deadpan blitz, but for all its conceptual attitudes, it would be a mistake to overlook the humanist core of her enterprise, which is to form counteroffers to capitalism’s destructive procedures and habits of minds. It is to this end that de la Torre subverts recognizable form, reorienting the performance of author, voice, and utterance in a way that constitutes an extraordinary striking of our usual lyric sets.

Part ekphrasis, part theatrical production, de la Torre’s book stages often hilarious exchanges. Part of her gift as a writer is comedic timing, manipulating recognizable situations and the vocabulary they provide to release minor affects such as frustration, annoyance, skepticism, and embarrassment . . .

Finish the review right here.

Originally Published: August 21st, 2017