Dick Wad by Deena November
(Hyacinth Girl Press, Pittsburgh, PA, 2012)
“My Mother didn’t prepare me for Mr. T”: A Review of Deena November’s Debut Collection
In “Strange Ones” Deena November explores one-liners and questions asked in the shower, car, bed, bathroom, and at a funeral such as “Will you pay my sprint bill?” (22) and stranger still she offers readers in her first chapbook a personal look at the strangest one of all: the dick. In “Your Penis is Yelling at Me” the poem in the centerfold of Dick Wad, November notes this dick is yelling “through the clear shower curtain,/ crazy one-eyed, red,” and in the opening poem “Molly Named Dicks” we learn the names of some dicks such as “Dead Fish Dick” and “Action Hero Children’s Underwear Dick” (4). Named or unnamed, limp or an emotional mess (4), Dick Wad is a catalogue of dicks—the plastic, the creepy, and the unremembered. But in Dick Wad, they’re “all past dicks to here” (4).
To talk about dicks means talking about the work dicks, the men women and girls meet on the job that make all dream of Mr. T. In “Working for the Solomon Brothers” she must maneuver away from a co-worker with crooked teeth and graying hair who taps “his stubby finger” on a calendar asking “What day goot for you” after telling her “I think you need goot hart fuck!” (4). In “Sliding Down” a fellow-coworker and the cook puts “broccoli stems in my waitress apron,/ and random slaps to my teenage ass” (19) is only half the dick of Scott who walks her home, both drunk, but she’s smart enough to know she’s “too drunk for him and this” (19). Scott refuses to listen to her “I can give you a hand job that’s it, I’m too drunk” (19). Unfortunately Mr. T doesn’t run in to save her and call Scott a fool, let alone a dick, but this reviewer will – Hey Scott, you’re a dick. Hell Scott, you’re a rapist.
Unfortunately, the Dicks aren’t only at work but also the dicks women and girls meet in their first sexual explorations. In “Sam the Russian” who “Fingered her in his friend’s cellar” wanting to be her first and told her “I’m gonna fuck you till you’re sore!” (7), luckily for her and unluckily for another:
two weeks later she found out
he fucked a twelve-year-old
in the synagogue maintenance closet. (7)
In “Conversation in a Cadillac” a divorcee after liking her uniform, “Ankle-length knife-pleated skirt,/ white oxford pencil-smudged shirt” (16) and calling her “sexxy!” asks her what her age is mid-blowjob and when she breathes a “fifteen./ He pushes me back down” (16). Hello, Mr. T? Where are you?
Fortunately for November, Dick Wad, and readers, with a world of dicks and absent TV heroes, there is Mr. Private. In “I Don’t Get Wet Just Thinking of What’s Wooden Anymore” while November’s love object is asleep she’s down on the couch or in her tub, her “body only knows translucent blue ecstasy” because “There is this invisible arrow to me clit/ only Mr. Private and I know how it operates” and with Mr. Private she “will always come” (3). Beyond Mr. Private in “Unmissed,” there is also the unmissed forty-five pounds and though “no one recognizes me anymore” (11), November seems to suggest her overweight figure was “unmissed then” and “unmissed now” (11). Also on the upside, it’s hard not to miss the lesson from a little kid in “On the Floor of the Pre-School Class at St. Edmund’s” who asks if she’ll “touch my penis” or barring that, “Can I touch yours?” (18). The kid’s brother corrects him and says, “She’s a girl she don’t has [sic] a penis./ She gots a beginner” (18). Indeed by the end of Dick Wad it seems that November does have a dick or at least an inner dick, if not a beginner dick because she refuses a professor’s offer for dinner (21), is called a bitch by an ex (23), and is given:
autumn flowers wrapped in cellophane
and a little packet of flower food
for forgiveness. (24)
By the end of Dick Wad readers get a sense she’s also found her inner Mr. T, who tells her to “Get in the picture little food” (25). She does. She turns and faces it, the “eye-level…blue bulge” holding “my fist, tight” (25).
Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches English and creative writing. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the full-length book Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012) the letterpress books Unclose the Door (Gold Quoin Press, 2012) and Farm Hands (Gold Quoin Press, 2012), and the chapbooks She Who Loves Her Father (Dancing Girl Press, 2012), Branding Girls (Finishing Line Press, 2011), Ghost Girl (Pudding House Publications, 2010), and My Imaginary (Dancing Girl Press, 2010). She is also the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013). Her writings have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Margie, Arts & Letters, Poet Lore, and Feminist Studies. She has received honors from the Academy of American Poets and the Wurlitzer Foundation.