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Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls Paperback – March 7, 2011
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''Whether working from memories of girlhood or accounts of alien abduction, these poems trace the seam of the fantastic and the quotidian, carefully mapping the way each slides into the other. Meitner's poems are at once smooth and explosive, combustible engines of propulsive force. Vigilance meets the makeshift when precise attention leads to new assessment, the transformation of the self indivisible from self knowledge.'' --Jason Schneiderman, author of Striking Surface
''These cool, hot poems about women and girls in danger and on the prowl, coming of age and being of age, are full of startling detail and vivid setting. Meitner's range, wit, compassion and her alertness to the moments where domestic and collective experience intersect, make these poems memorable. This book is a seriously good read.'' --Daisy Fried, author of My Brother is Getting Arrested Again
''Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls is a sexy, funny, smart book full of crack-the-whip language. Meitner climbs the scaffolding of different kinds of rhetoric -- the abduction narrative, the extraterrestrial encounter, the customs declaration form, the marriage vow to provide startling insight into questions of truth and its constructions. For its music, for its stylistic variety, for its ambition, and for its delights, this instruction manual proves its worth again and again.'' --Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Unmentionables
About the Author
Erika Meitner's first book, INVENTORY AT THE ALL- NIGHT DRUGSTORE, won the 2002 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, and was published by Anhinga Press in 2003. Her second book, Ideal Cities, was selected as a winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series, and was published by Harper Perennial in August 2010. Her third collection of poems, MAKESHIFT INSTRUCTIONS FOR VIGILANT GIRL, was published by Anhinga Press in 2011. Her poems have appeared recently in Tin House, The Southern Review, Indiana Review, APR, Slate, VQR, and The New Republic. She is currently an Assistant Professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she teaches in the MFA program.
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The first section is my favorite. Titled makeshift instructions for vigilant girls, this section is composed of poems about puberty and the angst of adolescence.
How I long for erasure, a third eye
to beam me from the stage where I sit,
passive, off-kilter, knees together,
hands folded neatly in my lap.
(Smile! It's School Picture Time)
The 2 ½ page poem "Sex Ed" captures the discomfort of sitting through the videos and lectures, and the cynicism of teens. The sneer at the teacher echoes through lines like these:
Sex as anything but get-lost-in-it
pleasure, ephemeral treasure-chest
of orgasm, a word Mrs. Callaghan
has managed to avoid all semester-
You can hear the classic teenage sigh as the sexually experienced teens watch the boy in the video fumble:
Someone needs to raise their hand immediately
and volunteer to tell the girl ion the car
to unbutton her blouse for that guy slowly.
The theme of danger and warning continues in the second section, contact notes, which contains several poems about alien abduction. The subject matter of several poems comes from The Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters.
At intervals, it retrieved and recorded her memory.
She became a mouth-slit, panic-stricken,
in imminent danger of being captured.
In the third section, the subjects are older, more confident and experienced, progressing toward marriage, and reflecting on youth. These poems aren't as immediate and in-your-face as the ones in the first section, but there are still warnings. The danger here is complacency and boredom. "Engagement" opens with these lines:
Love colored with sidewalk chalk
won't make it through the next rain.
Do you feel relief like bus exhaust? Nothing
at all? When he calls do you make grocery lists
(The Night Before the Wedding)
Meitner uses strong imagery and metaphor. She injects wry humor into much of her work. Her writing sings, dances, and celebrates. Consider yourself warned: all women should be vigilant after reading these instructions.