Carly, Cupcakes, and Thou–new sonnets by Nicole Steinberg

I was excited to receive my copy of Nicole Steinberg’s new book of poetry in the mail today. As I’ve posted on Scribal Tattoo, Getting Lucky is a volume of poems that were each collaged from the editorial copy of Lucky magazine. In the magazine, the silky and sugary language of consumer fashion is intended to incite consumers to aspire, desire, and buy. In Nicole’s hands, the words are pastiched into complex poems that reveal the longing at the base of consumer drive. Alternately sarcastic, glossy, yearning, and funny, they are both of and against the beautiful fantasies of fashion.

I’ve read many of the poems at various points in the process, but flipping through the finished book I came across a new-to-me poem that is relevant to my blog interests. Posted with permission:


“Doughnuts are the new cupcakes!”
Gwyneth Paltrow declared. We love
a girl who loves her snacks, even one
with epitome-of-boring hair. So many
chic chanteuses in Brooklyn and the Lower
East Side love chocolate bars–flattering
for practically every complexion, the improve
general skin awesomeness while retaining
a comfort factor. A bottle of peachy-melony
soda-pop as an everyday moisturizer instantly
gets you comments about how healthy and
cute you look. Creamy, rich ingredients–
that’s the idea. If we could turn a fluffy cake
into a dress and live in it, we sooo would.

Love. This one is more overtly “about” consumerism than others; many of the Lucky poems unfold into short narratives or reveal elusive female characters running toward or away from the illusions of glamor. But “Carly” remains in the interminable present tense of advertising, narrated in the royal fashion-mag “we” and making extravagant claims that cannot be believed (chocolate, good for skin? Gwyneth Paltrow, snack lover?) or cannot be pinned down (what the heck is skin awesomeness, how do you measure a comfort factor?). We shouldn’t trust this narrator any more than we trust any advertisements or magazine spreads. We know the promises are false. But at the same time, so tempting! Yes, it’s hard to resist the dual appeal of cosmetics that promise both taste and textural pleasure with words like “peach” and cream.” Yes, if given the opportunity to turn a fluffy cake into a dress, I sooo would too.

And of course, I love this poem because it alludes to other issues of food marketing that have my attention for the moment. Such as: how does a pastry become the new “It” pastry? Why did macarons fail where cupcakes succeeded and cronuts had a one-hit wonder? Also, I recently read this imperfect but well-meaning post about the skewed ways the media portrays women eating food–or more specifically, female celebrities with Hollywood-approved bodies describing their love of food. (The fail point is its application of the discredited calories-in-calories-out theory, but the overall argument is relevant.)

Incidentally: If you’re local, you can hear Nicole read the Lucky poems tonight at Tattooed Mom, or one of these other fine establishments along the east coast next week. I can recommend this–Nicole is a poet who reads well, and is worth listening to.

Snagged this adorable cupcake picture from Whipped Bakeshop.

Snagged this adorable cupcake picture from Whipped Bakeshop.

3 responses to “Carly, Cupcakes, and Thou–new sonnets by Nicole Steinberg

  1. Pingback: Books by women I’ve read in 2013 « Scribal Tattoo·

  2. Pingback: CSA Week 25: Organic Fractals | Scenes of Eating·

  3. Pingback: Books by women I’ve read in 2013 | Scribal Tattoo·

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