Reviews for Inseminating the Elephant

Booklist Reviews 2009 March #2
Balancing on the axis between the absurd and the transcendent, MacArthur fellow Perillo counters the clinical extremes of science with earthy irreverence in her latest collection of wry, over-the-speed-limit poems. With forays into wildlife management and medical time served, what with her multiple sclerosis, Perillo writes with empathy and sneaky wit about the sacrificial animals in lab studies. Facing gore and death without puking is a rite of passage, but a steady forensic gaze does not preclude compassion or wild humor. Perillo offers a crazy ode to Girl Scouts singing on their knees, an erotic view of an elephant, and a cathartic wallop of an answer to Auden in “Rebuttal,” in which her contemplation of Brueghel is rudely interrupted. Memories of shoplifting meat in college open into musings on hunger and hubris, while an ad for Viagra sparks thoughts of Niagara and the urge to ride its torrent: “doesn’t part of us want to be broken to bits? / After all, our bodies are what cage us.” Yes, but poetry as wise and effervescent as Perillo’s sets us free. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 April #3

Perillo is poet who aggressively, unflinchingly and humorously takes it all in; her poems here feature an ode to Motorola, a fat junkie, a bra fitting and Plath's hair, not to mention the act described in the title poem. She is not afraid of beginning a poem with a list of great men who all "had a woman and child/ they needed to ditch," and then comparing the way the universe regards everyone to the way those great men regarded their children. She avoids sentimentality while confronting the rebellions of her own body, which landed her in a wheelchair: "She rolls up/ to watch me board, as people do,/ because it is interesting/ to see the wheelchair maneuvered backward/ into the van." She manages to write a surprising poem about Viagra, with Niagara Falls' "silver surge" as its central image. Perillo is never uninteresting. In the title poem, her chutzpah and roving eye blend perfectly, demonstrating in fairly intricate detail how a German zoologist's preparation and approach toward an elephant's "vestibule" compares to the reader approaching the speaker's own inner life, her "seed-pearl" and "opalescent sorrow." (Apr.)

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