Review: ‘oh, you thought this was a date?!’ by C. Russell Price

oh, you thought this was a date?!

oh, you thought this was a date?! is a collection that feeds apocalyptic vengeance with a swarm of furies and thwarted desires. What’s more, it does so in a way that is visual, electric, and carnal. Reeling away from poetry that is — above all — meditative, Price bares the snare of language, the beauty felt at the juncture of bruised skin and the tip of a whetted blade.

By allowing the collection to flare and burn up through its many sub-themes, tunes, and rituals for the reader to perform, they initiate us into an experience that goes beyond the passive appraisal of feeling. For example, the opening image is that of a man and the fumes of his breath in a hot car, swiftly followed by an orange devoured in a closet. 

The stuffiness and the delicacy that stimulate the senses point to the body, its underlying nefariousness. And, in some way, asphyxiation — seen as both passion and trauma — is understood as the only means of getting reacquainted with one’s own physicality.

Price’s survival guide for the apocalypse, one of the mind’s own making, also acts as a road map into their being. Decimation lies in the act of staring lovingly into the eyes of the one punching your teeth in. The end is in the way you keep expecting him to come, to leave again through you. 

Armageddon is the longing to have every ruffle that’s been brushed by his presence altered. It’s the desire to be recast, pulled apart from the anguish ingrained in the mind, wanted in a way that overpowers and subdues the limits of potential. 

In the end, devastation evokes the tenderness that lives in the sound of raindrops splashing the sidewalk with their entire selves; a way of feeding yourself to an entity that leaves you formless. The self and the other blend, gelling into an iodine solution. 

Through Price’s inflamed memory and thickened lust, the bleak reality of modern America gains its own pH score, one which reveals caustic sensibilities. And so, binary rage singes the suffocation of the non-binary. 

That’s because, in a world where you have no form to slip into, your furies emerge as the elements that hunger for a world-defining cataclysm. This is where the vibrancy, the bite of Price’s poetry lies. And what an ambrosia it proves to be. Oh, you thought this was a date?! reminds us that an empty shell will leak wailing storms into an ear that lingers long enough to hear them.

In doing so, the collection exposes the polarity of its address. On the one hand, we witness Price’s search for a love that will outlast the unraveling of the self, reanimate the body with the hope and devotion that compel it. On the other hand, we observe Price’s repossession of their constitution, an act that demands a reckoning with their rapist.

This confrontation evolves on both an emotive and a declamatory level. It instills the poems with delirium, a frenzy of sound and movement that brings to mind a high-speed train on the verge of a screech, a final derailing. This energy slips past the designated margins of its delivery, growing bolder with every slice of Price’s pen.

By the collection’s end, we’re left with a shape-defying colourscape, one which seals the perpetrator within a dazzling framework of accountability.

Publication date: June 15, 2022 (Northwestern University Press)

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