“You begin from economic fact,” opens Allie Warren’s debut collection, an extended commentary on a society in which every person is “a perceptible, finite and particular / part of the scaffolding” of capitalism. Though she may be excoriating the system, Warren has fun doing it, however, with a willingness to always go in for the dirty joke, and a cool Californian attitude that places her in the West Coast tradition of her publisher. This deadpan tone belies the slyly crafted humor of her wordplay, which mashes up multiple registers for comic, sometimes cutting effect. Whether she’s advising us to “come correct come morning,” “[m]ake money not steel,” or making an introduction (“Behavior meet Behavior, Behavior / meat all the social organs”), Warren is infatuated with the absurd possibilities of language and their potential to re-circuit “the heart of the enormous capital.” Even as Warren’s poems dance away from any notion of a fixed self (“My Factless Autobiography,” one poem is called), a tender undercurrent runs throughout, and the closing “Personal Poem”—comprising a series of second-person commands—offers a roundabout glimpse into the poet’s more quotidian inspirations, while offering some sage advice: “Don’t talk too much about language in mixed company.”
This book review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2014.