Journal of Writing & Environment


Five Bullet Review: Inappropriate Sleepover by Meg Johnson


Inappropriate Sleepover
by Meg Johnson

The National Poetry Review Press
$12.49

Reviewed by Samantha Futhey

Girl of the 21st Century

Meg Johnson’s Inappropriate Sleepover lives up to its name as she brandishes a quirky and snappy whip of critique on the portrayal of women, their bodies, and modern, American cultural constructs. These free verse poems are unhitched from cultural norms, lines tight with immediacy, or loose with snark skimming across the pages. The following points capture the best elements of her collection:

o With a title like Inappropriate Sleepover, the poems reveals how Meg Johnson is not afraid to comment on “inappropriate” issues. Many poems discuss the objectification of women, as in “Showgirl;” “I can help you down from there, sweetheart/ a man yells out from somewhere/ in the crowd. I’ll take you/ someplace real nice.” Johnson also pairs an honest, if odd, image with commentary on male-dominance in the poem “Pretending to Read Time Magazine;” “…………Time is male/ I pace against these words/ as if walking around at home in my/ underwear could truly make a difference.”

o Full of teeth and glitter, the voice of this collection breaks through a tough-girl modern exterior to reveal vulnerability in the face of heartbreak and failed expectations. As in the poem “Traveling Woman,” Johnson’s lines kill with their poignancy; “I will stop to/ rest and duct tape my heart down/ from beating in your direction.”

o Poems of definition, primarily defining what it means to be a woman, litter the collection such as “Timber!”, “The Girl,” “Bad Girls,” and “No Code.” The poem “No Code” gives a definition of women for the Hollywood-obsessed; “We are strong female leads,/ our expiration date pinned/ in our hair with diamond/ barrettes.”

o Meg Johnson speaks of heartbreak and demands of women by society, but she does so with laughter curling along the lines, proving poetry doesn’t have to be serious to make a point.“The Lover’s Manual and Dating Guide (2012)”, a poem made entirely out of listed instructions, starts off with “Worst foods to eat off your lover’s naked body”. But my favorite list is “New trends in romance getaways on a budget:
1. Eating Taco Bell in a forest
2. Wearing beach-wear at the public library
3. Speaking in fake French accents at a park
4. Reading a history book in the shower

o Did I not mention all the pop culture references that act as tiny bursts throughout this collection? Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe, The Odd Couple, Justin Bieber, Girl Scouts and Victoria’s Secret are just a few of the references she uses to place her work in the contemporary era. Johnson uses the reference of Ann Taylor, a professional women’s clothing store, to contrast with an uncomfortable situation in “The Girl;” “I wear cardigans and knee/ length skirts. Some men/ don’t assume I’m a prostitute/ but try to talk me into it./ I keep walking by in my/ Ann Taylor outfits.”

Favorite poem: “44306”
This poem has a provocative sense of place, what we at Flyway love to read. The city is turned inside out, imagined “this three legged/ dog of a city.” Throughout the poem, ordinary places transform in slippery, haunting images; “Middle class looking houses are/ undercover brothels.” The dirtiness of the city becomes romantic, emulating what Johnson does throughout Inappropriate Sleepover; throwing a bright, sparkling light on what’s ugly in American society. In the final lines, the speaker maintains her critical eye, even in a moment of intimacy; “When your body outshines/ my past lovers and this city, I/ won’t know if I’m happy or sad.”

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