Self-Portrait as Bettie Page
Heidi Czerwiec is Associate Professor of English at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where she lives with her husband and son. For more information, her website is www.heidiczerwiec.com.
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If “nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow rooms / and hermits are contented with their cells,” imagine the fun to be had in lacing pin-up icon Bettie Page into this “scanty plot” of poetic corset, the sonnet. Rarely are form and content so well suited as in Heidi Czerwiec’s wittily kinky peek-a-boo of a collection, almost-but-not-quite bursting at its seams with author/persona conflation/confusion, wide-ranging allusions, and wonderful word-play. Full of “levity” and “heft,” the poems “capture…in meter’s narrow aperture” not only the biography/mythology of Bettie Page, but also a strong sense of an authorial coming to terms with her own formal ars poetica. Indeed, “it’s hard outside constraints that you construct,” but it’s easy as cheesecake to appreciate these poems, on the cutting edge of contemporary work that is keeping the seemingly ancient form of the sonnet smart, sexy, and ever so relevant.
In alternately saucy and searing formal lyrics, Heidi Czerwiec costumes herself in the contradictory and enigmatic guises of Bettie Page: sex symbol, icon, girl next door, fetish, recluse, victim, myth. Czerwiec’s elegant forms reclaim formalism as sexy, even a little bit kinky, with a sly twist of camp, through positing form as a type of bondage, or S&M play. These deft poems playfully pin up and seriously pin down the Bettie Page mystique and the performative and elusive subjectivity of female sexuality—as well as the complex relationships of subject to object, free to formal verse, and bodies au naturel to bodies in bondage.
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Release date: December 16th, 2013.