From William Shakespeare to John Dunn, poetry has a unique ability to tug on the heart strings, stir emotions, convey deeper meanings, and even transport the reader to another time and place. In the case of Erica M. Loberg’s work What Men Should Know About Women, I experienced each of the above; however, the experience was not a positive one and I found myself in a place I never wanted to be as a reader.
Loberg’s take on “what men should know about women” is divided into three loose chapters, covering the topics of self, the body, women, and the city. Her foray into examining the concept of self includes estimations of self-worth based on physical appearance, the struggle of the woman to reconcile reality with the image of perfection often presented, as well as the general struggles of overcoming, fighting adversity, encountering depression, and submitting to discouragement.
The body chapter paints a picture of a woman’s insecurity over thinning hair and weight gain, with an oh-so-subtle side order of eating disorder. The portion entitled “women” is a discussion of what the reader would assume are Loberg’s own emotional feelings and thoughts, of which 90 percent discuss sex in some way. The 10 percent that mentions love and genuine connection is written in such a way that the reader is left to assume that the poet has never experienced a satisfying or deep connection. Finally, the city portion takes on the tone of an observer walking through the streets of a busy metropolis, taking the time to note the sounds, smells, thoughts and feelings of all around, including the asphalt.
Poetry is highly subjective; poetry is highly emotional and incredibly personal. Loberg’s attempt strikes me as an honest and vulnerable cry from an equally emotional heart. Loberg communicates from a background of manic depression, thus tinging the poems with swings of desperation, drops of depression and spurts of mania. In this sense, it exhibits the honest perspective of those fighting through this disease, and would likely be relatable to such an individual. Its tone is highly provocative and Loberg speaks of sex with an unusual candor that elevates the poetry from beyond sensual to openly erotic. Considering the ratio of erotic verse to non, it also demonstrates the high importance of sexuality to the poet.
Despite its subjective and “open-to-interpretation” nature, poetry is still an art form, and a review of such a body must base its suppositions on the nature of that art itself. In its simplicity, lack of clear rhythm, ability to incite an emotional response, and to paint a strong picture for the reader, this is a successful work of verse.
Conversely, the content, while true to the poet’s experience, is derogatory, degrading, diminutive of human nature, and insulting. The content degrades a woman’s experience of her self to that of a piece of human flesh that is dominated by negative self-image, what seem to be abusive relationships, and loveless sexual encounters. An off-hand introspective about only waxing for the right man and what he would do in response implies the woman’s role as sex toy and object, thus further promoting all that feminism has fought for years to eradicate.
The verses approaching talks of love and depth of feeling were correlated to the quality of sexual encounters, promoting the ideology that the two are not mutually exclusive. Reading the verse did not inspire or enthrall me as a reader; instead, it saddened me to see a woman who thought so little of herself publicly degrading herself even further. As a reader who has walked through depression, some of these poems would have been triggering to me. For that reason, I don’t recommend it to those fighting feelings of low self-worth and battling sex addiction because this verse will only fuel both of those thoughts.
While it is an honest expose of the poet’s experience, it does not strike me as poetry, but as a verbal regurgitation of the poet’s own swirling emotions. If this was Loberg’s aim, then I say a job well done; however, I would not crack open the work again.
What Men Should Know About Women
Chipmunkapublishing, June 2015
Paperback, 144 pages