Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel by Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune — review by Mark McCawley

Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel

by Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune

 

review by Mark McCawley

 

Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel
by Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune
Lady Lazarus-Press, 2013
ISBN 978-1484853412
Kindle Edition|$4.53|Paperback|$18.90
8.5 x 5.5 inches, 140 pages

 

“My girl, my girl, don’t lie to me,
Tell me where did you sleep last night?”

—”Where Did You Sleep Last Night”, Nirvana’s 1994 cover of Huddie Ledbetter, a.k.a. Lead Belly’s 1944 reinterpretation. Original artist unknown.

 

“A novel in verse, a poetic story told by two strong female voices presented in short bursts of verse in a back and forth, call and response type style. The poems feed of each other’s imagery, running the gamut from the simple unadorned line to hallucinatory, dreamlike passages and back. The real and virtual become entwined in dreamlike states where fantasy and reality become indistinguishable. Violently erotic imagery born of raw emotion, sex and drugs, pain and ecstasy, addiction to chemicals both natural and manufactured. Vivid images of damnation and salvation, death and rebirth. At once intimate and angry, fantastic and visceral. A lush, sordid tale of lies and mindfucks, and somewhere, maybe love…”

(from ‘Introduction by William Taylor Jr’, Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel by Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune, p.7)


 

William Taylor Jr is quite spot on in his observations of Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune‘s Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel. There are much in these poems any reader regardless of gender would recognize having loved or lusted and experienced the profound betrayal of sexual infidelity. That said, there are things both said and unsaid in this collaborative collection I find intriguing. For instance, as “a poetic story told by two strong female voices” I find Jenny Toune’s description of her betrayal as a kind of “psychic rape” especially so since there is no female equivalent to the male cuckold in the English language: “the incongruity of your deceit / rapes me / in broad daylight / tars & feathers my trust” (Shedding Sin, Part One: Deception, Jen, p.17). “Bend down, / pick up the key, / I’m a locksmith, / you’re my door, / hang your question marks / on the meat hooks inside” (Shedding Sin, Part Two: Psychedelic Intervention, Teri, p.40). Indeed, both poets search for appropriate texts to fit their own personal emotive perspective:

 

Teri Louise Kelly & Jenny Toune — “…surfing an ocean of contradictions…” (from ‘Shedding Sin: A Verse Novel’, Lady Lazarus-Press, p.41-49, Florida, 2013)

 

As mentioned earlier, there are things both said and left unsaid in this collaborative collection. For instance, how much does each poet’s life experience contribute to the collection’s central theme of sexual infidelity, and how much does gender crashing and orientation play a part (if any):

 

Teri Louise Kelly — “How do you think being transgendered has added to your notoriety…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Teri Louise Kelly — “I thought about it in my early twenties…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Teri Louise Kelly — “My mom and dad’s aspiration was to become middle class…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Teri Louise Kelly — “Wow, poetry’s been banned…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Above all, the poetry in Shedding Sin is poetry of desire, obsessive desire, passions inflamed and passions betrayed, as well as the journey back from betrayal to love, a journey fraught with hurt, pain, as well as ecstasy and joy, as Jenny Toune discovers:

 

Jenny Toune — “She’d read a poem of mine…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Jenny Toune — “It’s quite hurtful when…” (from ‘The Poet Stripped Bare’, 360 Documentaries, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio National, Australia, 3 June 2012)

 

Any practicing or touring writer or poet, on the road flogging their book or books from city to city, will from time to time find themselves the object of sexual temptation. While Shedding Sin largely revolves about the aftermath of such a sexual indiscretion, it’s the accompanying lies which do the most damage, creating the largest barriers to reconciliation and love:

 

Teri:

crashed & burned,
climbed from the train wreck
of our love
on hands & knees
scraping my wine belly
across broken glass
& shattered promises;
marinated in my own
fetid adultery,
ingesting hate
coughing up
curdled lust.
My fantasies
took a shotgun ride
to a dead end
station,
hit the wall
of termination
with a sickening
thud.
I fed you my soiled lie
down a pre-paid
as you rode the bus
into my chaos
you walked the streets all night
looking for rape,
while I slept safe
with my whore.

—Teri Louise Kelly
(Shedding Sin, Part Three: Abandonment, Teri, p.53)

 

Jen:

bitter musing on destruction tonight
gathering itself into a muttered chorus
of lunacy and pain
words evoke images of you
with her
images prompt communion with anger,
degradation
futility
bodies drifting
their separate ways

you turned your back on me
sped fast & furious
into crash-land
burned bridges
cut me out
cut yourself up…

why?

what were you thinking
when we fucked in our bath
knowing she was waiting for your
touch…

why?

you’re in our house —
your house now —
contaminated with her presence
tainted with deceit
& I’m sitting a million miles away
from the wreckage of my life.

fuck life,

I’m miserable
haven’t slept with you
for seventeen nights…
think about how it was for you
fucking her
in that hotel room
meant for us,
wonder if
it was easy
to paint her prettiness
over my pain;
wonder if, how, when,
unanswerable questions
until I can find
healing
buried beneath the rubble of sanity
& soul

if you can excavate your sorrow
drown it in that bathtub, &
piss vintage wine
onto my gutted flesh

maybe then,
together
we can reconstruct body & soul
into an oasis of love
built on two hearts,
a unified beat.

—Jenny Toune
(Shedding Sin, Part Four: Shot at Death, Jen, p.111-113)

 

If each can bring such intense post-realism and transgression to subject matter as diverse and universal as sexual infidelity, I look forward to how their writing develops individually and collaboratively in future works. Teri Louise Kelly and Jenny Toune have their combined thumbs on the underground literary pulse as contemporary sexual outsiders and gender outlaws, a transgressive tag team tour de force.UG
 

Listen to the ABC National radio documentary ‘ The Poet Stripped Bare’ (2012) in its entirety, here.

Listen to Teri Louise Kelly and Jenny Toune recite excerpts from Shedding Sin on NLC Radio Show, here.

 
teri-louise-kellyTeri Louise Kelly is the author of three memoirs, one short story collection and two volumes of poetry, the latest the collaborative verse novel Shedding Sin, co-authored with her partner, her short stories and poetry have been published internationally and she has appeared at numerous festivals. She is the bass player in the grunge/punk band Alien Whore, has recorded a spoken word CD, was the subject of the ABC National radio documentary ‘ The Poet Stripped Bare’ (2012) and has had a DVD-Biopic made of her poetry appearances/philosophies – ‘TLK Punk’. She is currently working on her fourth memoir and a new collection of poetry.
 
 
 
 
 
jenny1Writer, performer, poet, tap dancer & drummer with the band Alien Whore, Jenny Toune’s claim to fame was sharing the stage of the Duke Theatre, 42nd Street, with Ernest ‘Brownie’ Brown and Brenda Bufalino during the New York City Tap Festival. In her spare time she is an award winning Adelaide author who has been published in various literary journals and anthologies, including Award Winning Australian Writing 2011, 2012, 2013. As a performance poet Jenny has been featured at Melbourne’s Overload Poetry Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, won the SA State Library Poetry Slam 2012 and was twice state finalist in the SA Poetry Slams. Her collaborative verse novel: Shedding Sin, was released in May 2013, she has just finished the final draft of a novel and a new poetry manuscript.

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