Throughout Everything is Everything, poet Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz demonstrates that she is a master of juxtaposition. Take, for example, “L’Chaim,” in which Aptowicz seamlessly blends images of David Foster Wallace’s suicide, dancing the Hora at a Jewish wedding, and attempting to recall how to do an Irish jig. The effect of this commingling is nothing short of astounding: after the narrator of the poem learns of the author’s suicide, she is summoned to represent her Irish heritage by performing a jig she doesn’t exactly know how to do. The result, of course, is a dance that bears a striking similarity to that of the hanged author–bottom half whipping the floor, “furious as a seizure,” while the top half remains “frozen, immobile, paralyzed.” But the parallel demands further examination, as it implies that we are all, in some way, dying as we appear to celebrate, committing small suicides as we force ourselves to go through the received motions of daily life. Is there anything more than preserving the culture of our ancestors, the poem all but demands?
As it turns out, there is, as Aptowicz also proves throughout the volume that she has a sterling sense of humor. Among the subjects she touches on in her poetry are crack-addicted squirrels, her fascination with dachshunds, the Loch Ness Monster, and insults that only work if you are a presidential trivia buff. The poem that really got me, however, is titled “Every Winter, People Think My Boyfriend is Elvis Costello.” Here, Aptowicz ponders the essence of identity, the fecklessness of celebrity, and the age-old question: “Would Elvis Costello really be wearing an Elvis Costello t-shirt?”
As strong as Aptowicz’s poems are on the printed page, she is first and foremost a performance poet, so the best way to get a sense of what she’s up to is to see her live. If this isn’t a possibility, there’s always catching her performances online at http://www.aptowicz.com/poet.htm (be sure to scroll down!). Funny, smart, and a little macabre, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz speaks eloquently and expertly for a generation raised on trivia, tabloid journalism, and black coffee.