In her “resonant and witty” (Washington Post) second collection, Karen Leona Anderson transforms apparently prosaic documents—recipes and receipts—into expressions of human identity. From eighteenth-century cookbooks to the Food Network, the recipe becomes a site for definition and disclosure. In these poems, the pie is a cultural artifact and Betty Crocker, icon of domesticity, looms large. And like a theatrical script, the recipe directs action and conjures characters: Grace Kelly at a party. Shoppers at a postapocalyptic mall. From the little black dress ($49.99 at Nordstrom) to an epidural ($25.00 co-pay), Anderson reveals life in the twenty-first century to be equally hampered and enabled by expenditures. Amidst personal and domestic economies, wildness proliferates—bats, deer, ocelots, and fungus—reminding the reader that not all can be assimilated, eaten, or spent.
Receipt is like the lovechild of Anne Sexton and Adam Smith, illuminating the ways in which our lives are both constrained by pieces of paper, and able to slip through the crevices of cultural detritus down to the rich current of animal feeling beneath.
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Praise and Prizes
“Receipt may permanently alter the way you read a cookbook. . . . These pieces cleverly suggest how culinary ideals—and saccharine mores—promise success in love and life yet constrict people instead. . . . Our consumer culture isn’t pretty, as Karen Leona Anderson reminds us, yet her writing is so deft and insightful that the work is resonant and witty.”
“With a lexical panache and formal liveliness, Receipt makes of personal and domestic travails wondrous record. These poems, fiercely wrought, honor the fragility of the human heart in the daily occasion while flaunting the supreme powers of artistic invention.”
“Receipt imagines an alternate history of American home economics, in which a split-second instruction from an iconic cookbook or a crumpled drugstore register tape is a site for narrative and linguistic rapture. The very title Receipt (at once an archaism of ‘recipe’—a series of instructions yielding culinary achievement—and the more familiar evidence of a transactional moment) heralds the crackling wordplay found throughout Karen Leona Anderson’s verse. To read these poems is its own kind of nutrition, its own sustenance.”
“Karen Leona Anderson knows that at the very base of our sophistications we hold true to the fundaments of our animal nature: appetite and display. Part recipe book, part ledger, part lyric-eyed anthropological investigation, part confession, part carnival, part come-on, Receipt—with wit and candor and unexpected compassion—reveals those rituals both deep and tawdry by which the human condition persists in pursuit of what it most wants: beauty, love, food, sex, the big box store called Beyond, the little box store called Home.”
“Like Prufrock’s coffee spoons, an existence can be measured by its detritus, or so attests Karen Leona Anderson, whose Receipt mines recipes and receipts for their larger context. . . . Where lesser poets might stop at the gimmick, Anderson unravels each garment until we’re left with the barest, most essential questions: What does it mean to be a human (woman) in the world?”