If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?
author : matthea harvey
Pages : [paperback] 160
A brilliant combination of poetry and visual artwork by Matthea Harvey, whose vision is “nothing short of blazingly original” (Time Out New York)
She didn’t even know she had a name until one day she heard the human explaining to another one, “Oh that’s just the backyard mermaid.” “Backyard Mermaid,” she murmured, as if in prayer. On days when there’s no sprinkler to comb through her curls, no rain pouring in glorious torrents from the gutters, no dew in the grass for her to nuzzle with her nose, not even a mud puddle in the kiddie pool, she wonders how much longer she can bear this life. The front yard thud of the newspaper every morning. Singing songs to the unresponsive push mower in the garage. Wriggling under fence after fence to reach the house four down which has an aquarium in the back window. She wants to get lost in that sad glowing square of blue. Don’t you?
—from “The Backyard Mermaid”
Prose poems introduce deeply untraditional mermaids alongside mer-tool silhouettes. A text by Ray Bradbury is erased into a melancholy meeting with a Martian. The Michelin Man is possessed by William Shakespeare. Antonio Meucci’s invention of the telephone is chronicled next to embroidered images of his real and imagined patents. If the Tabloids Are True What Are You? combines Matthea Harvey’s award-winning poetry with her fascinating visual artwork into a true hybrid book, an amazing and beautiful work by one of our most ingenious creative artists.
This collection of poetry is really interesting and amazing because of the art incorporated in the book. On nearly every other page you’ll find a blown-up image of something simultaneously disturbing and fantastical. Matthea Harvey manages to take everything childish, things that could be labeled as cute, and turn them into fierce political messages. Her feminist air exudes both from her poems and her artwork–though it is a little jarring to see and read about things like normally sexualized mermaids who are given a feminist stance.
I feel like this book of poetry is more approachable to most people because the poems mainly take the layout of prose. People may also be attracted because of the quirky images that fill the pages in full color. Yet it shouldn’t be said that the book is gimmicky because of its appearance; Harvey uses her imagery and words carefully, cultivating themes that lie beneath the surface of the superficial pleasure people may get from glancing through this book.
This is a collection worth mulling over. Everything is very entertaining on the first read; on the second or the third, it takes on an entirely new and slightly twisted meaning. Anything you thought might be cute or normal has been taken by Harvey and used to show what’s dark about the world. Nothing is romanticized.
I’d really recommend this collection, particularly to those who aren’t often reaching for poetry to read. I think that it’s a great way to branch into a different genre and you’ll be glad that you gave Harvey a try.