Here Come the Warm Jets

San Francisco: City Lights

Reviewed by Melanie Dennis Unrau

I’ve heard that in a forest fire the Douglas fir sends out streams of flammable sap, ensuring the surrounding trees will burn and the nearly fireproof fir will have room to reproduce. The title of San Franciso Bay Area poet Alli Warren’s collection, Here Come the Warm Jets, reminds me of this ecological wonder and troubling parallel to neoliberal self-interest.

I look up Brian Eno’s 1974 song and album of the same name for the most obvious intertext, and then I think about warm jets in some more contexts, like geopolitics (“the war jets,” or bloodshed), the public square (solidarity, and pepper spray), the bedroom (yes, women do it too), potty training…

Warren’s poems in Here Come the Warm Jets slide along these scales and more. In a range of voices, sampling from poetry, hiphop, Facebook, birdwatching and fashion blogs, and moving between the physical and affective locations of the dull workplace, “the dog park,” “the club” (25), a lover’s “fly gucci” (31), and the multitude at Occupy Oakland, Warren charts affinities and networks of threat or promise, “the unkempt / case of my bodily / part in watery alliance” (57).

Christopher Nealon has argued that poetry should be read as cultural texts, and that critics of North American poetry have depoliticized it by not attending to “the matter of capital” in poetry. I read Warren’s book as just the kind of text Nealon is interested in when he reminds “my friends on the academic and poetic left that it is not only the poetries of witness and documentation, or movement poetries, that are worrying over the destiny that capitalism is forcing us toward” (35).

This review is excerpted from a longer piece published in CV2.

Melanie Dennis Unrau is a poet, editor and PhD student from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her book Happiness Threads: The Unborn Poems (The Muses’ Company, 2013) was nominated for two Manitoba Book Awards in 2014. Melanie is poetry editor at Geez magazine and a member of the Artist Mothers group at Mentoring Artists for Women’s Art.