Sonics in Warholia, shortlisted for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, is an intriguing poetry collection that pushes the boundaries. It straddles the line between prose and poetry and is structured like a series of essays. Chock full of pop culture references, it is a letter from Megan Volpert to Andy Warhol.
I have to be honest and say that Sonics in Warholia wasn’t my cup of tea. At times it felt like Volpert was trying too hard to be edgy, and there was a lot of what seemed to me to be nonsensical rambling. And I’ve actually read novels with more poetic language and imagery. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to appreciate Volpert’s writing. In fact, there were some passages that I thought were brilliant, mostly when the narrator moves away from the chatter about Andy Warhol and reveals more about herself.
I see myself, and therefore am not quite myself. The camera is here somewhere, a sturdy ladder and a bird’s sharp eye patched with electrical tape. A direction to act natural is impossible to obey, everything having an out of control seemingness. (from “Recurring Fear of Flat Champagne,” page 52)
The poem that stood out the most for me was “Dear Diary of a Dead Man’s Telephone Number,” in which the narrator has two of Andy Warhol’s old phone numbers and debates dialing them. What starts off as somewhat amusing soon becomes quite sad. Her brother was killed, and she waits until his birthday to dial his old cell phone.
Two rings brings a simple hello in a south Louisiana twang belonging to a young man just like so many times before that I believe through some kind of phone voodoo I am listening to my Lazarus. (page 36)
I think my enjoyment of these poems was clouded by my lack of knowledge about Andy Warhol, aside from what I learned about him in a college Art History course, and the fact that most of the pop culture references went right over my head. Although I enjoy narrative poetry, I think these prose poems are too heavy on the prose for my tastes.
However, the more I revisit Sonics in Warholia, the more I am able to find passages that grab my attention and speak to me. Maybe it wasn’t the right time for me to read these poems, and I honestly think I just didn’t get what Volpert was trying to accomplish. Even so, Sonics in Warholia is a collection I won’t soon forget, one that underscores the diversity among poets and poetic forms.
© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.