Miami University Press, $16 (paper)
With finger on the pulse of cultural currency, Monetized marks Alissa Quart’s poetic debut, following successes in nonfiction and journalism. A trajectory of increasing commodification unravels in the book’s three sections, leaving us “hanging on by a high / thread count” and artificially quantified as “all stars, all likes. All nothing.” Although society has long been high on the spoils of privilege (“the word ‘classic’ accompanies the word ‘commercial,’ after 1943”), Quart tracks the ruins of capitalism’s digital dusk after the dawn:
Drones capture all / yet vets’ coffins are effaced / from our vastest database.
Whether from a bird’s-eye view or the bedroom, the level of interconnectivity contributes to objectification in a plea for mass appeal:
Here’s to reproduction: photography, Twitter, pregnancy. // Women may mother in order to be loved.
Loss of privacy, identity, and financial security stream throughout this collection. However, the irony of our predicament (“our sport / shirts point to always / sitting still”) is delightfully disclosed not only in the speaker’s waggish yet tempered tone, but also in the sheer refinement of free verse. Riddled with tropes, schemes, and internal rhymes, the economized syntax delivers a sonically charged discourse for redistributing our value system. In an era of imitation where “money cancels criticism” and TMZ replaces literature, “writers are still worrying about the word not meeting the thing it describes. Who else cares.” Monetized reminds us to remember.
From the April edition of Boston Review