Cassandra Dallett‘s San Francisco launch of her poetic memoir, Wet Reckless by Manic D Press, took place last Friday evening at Dog Eared Books in the Mission. Bill Gainer set a lively tone, followed by Steven Gray and William Taylor Jr., with brief explosive energy provided by Zarina Zabrisky & Simon Rogghe‘s costumed musical poems introducing each writer.
Dallett knocked it out of the park. Mixing a few prosier poems in with shorter, punchy pieces, she delivered a powerful reading with the skill and ease of someone who is settled and fully present in their poetic voice and self. Dallett vibrates on the page, but her reading style—confident, melodic, instinctive—really blows the doors open on her poetry.
When she introduced Dallett, Zabrisky shared a great moment with the crowd: a dream she had in which, as if over a loudspeaker, a voice proclaimed “DID YOU KNOW THAT CASSANDRA DALLETT IS THE SEXIEST POET IN SAN FRANCISCO??” Cue laughter, warm and knowing.
That was my first gloss of Dallett’s literary self as well; she was the sexy, mysterious blonde creature I’d heard about through friends who wrote slammin’ poetry. I think anyone who’s ever read Dallett or has seen her read can agree that the statement is correct, but Dallett’s poetry is far more than “sexy”, and to pigeonhole her through a marketing lens (as we tend to do with anyone who’s not a white cis/het male writer) is to do her, and her potential readers, a disservice.
Yes, Dallett writes about sex, and writes about it as something to be celebrated and illuminated, but she also makes poems about a patchwork youth, DUI woes and the often beautiful and horrible reality of living in the ghetto while hipsters encroach, one neckbeard at a time. There’s much more here to be savored than just a steamy sex poem—and the one she read, by the way, slams you with self-awareness, body positivity and sensual joy. There’s a whole life of joy and trauma curled around those poems to be considered and sifted, read and re-read.
Dallett’s poetry is unapologetically real, visceral and fiercely independent. She delivers her words in a style that is carefully crafted to offer maximum punch without filler or some of those lovely-sounding MFA words that cloud meaning and content. Wet Reckless is a poetic memoir unlike any other memoir I’ve read (and I went home and read the whole damn thing the same night). You want lyrical? Her language doesn’t trip over moments or alight gently on your shoulder to whisper in your ear. It grabs your wrists and pulls you out the door to scream joyfully into the night.
Buy this book. Read it well. And the next time Dallett reads, which will be at the Make-Out Room in SF on 6/21, make sure you’re there to hear what she has to offer us.
Enjoy an excerpt from the reading:
Mick Harris is a poet living in the SF East Bay. They have an MFA, but their education is far from over. They’re mostly friendly, and definitely happy to be here. You can find their work in Pink Litter and the Up, Do anthology available from Spider Road Press, as well as forthcoming in Fruitapulp, Deep Water Literary Review, and Digging Through the Fat. They share poetry and general brain dump right this way.