A sometimes-scandalous poet opens up about herself and her business.
Mary Karr describes writing a memoir as “knocking yourself out with your own fist.” In these short, autobiographical pieces, poet and novelist Addonizio (The Palace of Illusions: Stories, 2014, etc.) knocks herself out over and over, sometimes viciously. The book is filled with her usual jaunty wit, sarcasm, and irreverence. This “Emily Dickinson with a strap-on,” as she calls herself, is ruthlessly honest and writes so well that no matter what she’s excoriating or dissing or musing about becomes immediately fascinating. Her passion for writing is an “irresistible lover” she’s known most of her life; it’s the “monster that controls me.” There are also the lovers she has sought in all the wrong places her whole life—the divorces and many lovers or mere sex partners for a night. Too many had “no heart in their chest cavity.” Many of these pieces are dark and unrelenting in self-flagellation. There’s the drinking (a lot), depression, and a drug-riddled life: “pot, mescaline, acid, Quaaludes, Seconals, coke, heroin, speed,” and others she can’t recall. Addonizio writes fondly of her famous parents. Her sportswriter dad read to her often, and her piece about taking her elderly, ailing, once-a-champion-tennis-player mom, Pauline Betz, to a drug store for a flu shot is tender and loving. Poetry and writing and her daughter, Aya Cash, an accomplished actress, are the true loves in her life. Addonizio has managed to live off her books, grants, prizes, and readings her whole life. Trying to write a third novel to make some money was as painful as “having a baby,” and she gives up. Whether it’s walking around drunk at a poetry conference or looking for a new beau online, the life of this poet is not a pretty picture, but it’s captivating.
An unrelenting, authentic, literary midnight confession.