Chatty Cathy, the briefly popular doll of the 1960s and source of the snide idiom, stars in John Emil Vincent’s new epyllion – a short narrative poem from classical poetics – which follows a post-canon Cathy along her journey to power. We explore the historical, the nonhuman narrator, and the object poem all at once, following the perspectives of the doll. The owned nonhuman, despite its limitations, lends itself to the tragic endings of growing up, growing into one’s body, and escaping the limits of popular culture that are all too human.
The Decline and Fall of the Chatty Empire
John Emil Vincent
McGill-Queen's University Press
[…] Cathy, amid trash,
lay back on her string’s ring
uncomfortable as it was.
Couldn’t she had been born
anorectic or to pee when pressed?
Why’d her name
have to so perfectly
fit the marquee?
Vincent’s newest book is well-timed to coincide with this summer’s Barbie movie – they share the same concept of a doll finding its own identity despite its fate appearing to be prescribed. The humour of Chatty Cathy’s warlike passion is not lost on Vincent either; the poems are interspersed with references to other toys and pop culture elements during touching and ironic scenes alike:
There were cupcakes,
sinks of ricin and anthrax,
and a meth lab
built of Lincoln logs and
twisty straws. Everyone smiled.
Mindy not least of all.
The Decline and Fall of the Chatty Empire is a story in verse of the stuttering feeling of finding one’s purpose and overcoming cultural pressures on aging women. Readers across disciplines will relate to the adventures of the contemporary that resonate throughout the book.mRb