A Little Excitement by Nancy Scott
Reviewed by Robert Cooperman
A Little Excitement, Nancy Scott , Kelsay Books, www.kelsaybooks.com 62 pp.: ISBN 978 1952326738 $18-
What do you get when you mix some Kafkaesque enigmas with some whimsy, some political observation and social criticism, and maybe some autobiography or is it apocryphal autobiography? Nancy Scott’s latest wonderful poetry collection, A Little Excitement. The opening poem, “The Parade,” presents a landscape and mindscape that Scott will exploit throughout the collection; it’s at once precise but also absurd. We’re told at the outset that “The War comes,” but everyone is carrying on as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened. We’re also told there is a parade of animals, all of them marching in precise formation, except the grizzly cubs, who smell fresh fish and “head for the vendors stall,” but fall back into line when a colonel “on a great stallion” blows his whistle to signal the parade is to continue. It’s all delightfully absurd.
Absurdity with a barb in it seems to be a theme throughout A Little Excitement. Toward the end, there’s the poignant tale of “The Elephant in England.” The elephant in question is a fifth cousin of Queen Celeste, Babar’s royal consort, who has invited her for a vacation in London, which the title elephant hates: no mud holes to wallow and, and worse, she’s arrested and put on public display. At the end all she wants is to return to Africa, away from humans. Can’t say as I blame her, given our species terrible record on just about everything.
What I especially love about A Little Excitement is the way Nancy skewers our expectations of what the normal world should look like. Indeed, in these poems, normal gets stood on its pointy little head and shown to be nothing but a bead curtain into a darker, stranger, more exciting world, as in “Simon Says in the Shopping Mall.” Here, the narrator, Nancy (?) and four-year-old Leah encounter the Easter Bunny at a mall. Leah thinks he’s terribly old and is told that Easter Bunnies get old too, but she wants to talk to him. She leads him through a game of Simon Sys and by way of criticizing the adult narrator of not paying attention, declares, See, HE listens to me.
This is a marvelous collection, a real corrective and critique of the horribleness of the ordinary world we find ourselves trapped in. A Little Excitement provides some escape from that world, into a world that plays by its own, different rules and forces us readers to attend to those rules as well, and if we do, we’ll be richly rewarded, as only true art can confer rewards.