Mindy Nettifee's Sleepyhead Assassins
Mindy Nettifee's new book Sleepyhead Assassins has the usual earmarks of a well-crafted collection; a provocative title; the customary themes of love, loss, and self-discovery; and an abundance of humor.
Sleepyhead Assassins contains more, and I have two beefs about that. I do believe that Ms. Nettifee is destined to be the next Dorothy Parker. In the poem "Brought Up" she acknowledges this fact in the stanza it used to be that stories of great women inspired me:/ reading Dorothy Parker with a stiff whiskey sour,/ watching Rosalind Russell strut about as Auntie Mame/was a full bottle of cheap champagne.
There are many lines offered up in Sleepyhead Assassins that, within 20-50 years, will become classic quotes: it's not fair, but life happens just the same ("Brought Up"); this life has wound you so tight, / you make grandfather clocks look relaxed, and you hold your body like banks hold money - all locked up ("The First Time"); finding love is like tracing a path through water,/ using only your sense of smell and a Russian novel ("The College Girls Are Trying the 1960's On For Size And Express Indignation Because I Shave"); and writing is easy like carving a relief map in limestone,/ with your one good pinky ("When the Gloves Come Off"). This is my first complaint: There are too MANY good lines that will no doubt inspire many poets to drag out their notebooks or run to their computers to expand on the ideas that Ms. Nettifee has planted into their heads. For shame! However, if the reader has the fortitude to look past such moments of brilliance and absorb these lines within the context of the poetry, then all can be forgiven (insert smiley).
My second beef: How can someone so young have achieved such maturity in her work? (Insert second smiley). Ms. Nettifee has not yet reached the tender age of 30, and in her short life has experienced much: the anguish acutely expressed by a child whose father passed on his suffering (in this case, the struggle with his homosexuality) in "The Time Machine Paradox"; the hard-won knowledge and compromise offered by a woman whose limitations in relationships are honestly laid out in "If You are Trying To Size Me Up, Allow Me To Do It For You"; the bone-shaking revelations brought on by the combination of the poet's second sight and an altered state explored through the prose poem "Two Ambien and Some Huxley"; and when past and present loves collide in the mind of one who questions, with fear and trepidation, then resolution, the strange twists and turns love has brought her through in "How I Want to Go and Why."
Fascinating, memorable, evocative poetry that a reader can engage in again and again? If a reader desires a book of poetry like this one, and wants to add Sleepyhead Assassins to her collection, then I say, go for it. And I would recommend watching out for Ms. Nettifee in the next few years as she continues to educate, inspire, and delight the poetry community with her clarity.
bio: Mindy Nettifee, 27, lives in Long Beach, California where she writes poetry, works with non-profit arts and housing organizations, and is editor-in-chief of GetUnderground.com. Her heroes include Vaclev Havel, Patricia Smith, and all single mothers everywhere, busting their asses to keep their kids in crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Her work has been published in various journals and her poem "Metal Detectors and Other Important Thresholds" was a nominee for the Pushcart Prize.
(Sleepyhead Assassins, Mindy Nettifee, Copyright 2006, Moontide Press, ISBN 1-4243-1692-8, 60 pages, $12)