Review: “Slingshot Catapult”


Slingshot Catapult, by Carrie Meadows
Semiperfect Press, 2019, $6

Carrie Meadows’s poetry collection Slingshot Catapult is a work that grapples with doubling. In one corner, Tracy and her companion Dodge (at once a name of a lover, a city, a strategic maneuver, and likely an epithet), are wrestlers in the 1980s, making their way in the circuit. In the other corner, after the seats empty and the evenings’ battles are played out, they go home and climb into bed and each other’s lives.

This tale of physical and mental displacement is situated geographically somewhere in the Midwest, the cradle of so much 20th-century American culture, the Gold Dust Trio’s turf. Wrestling has a wider reach and audience than ever before. As a form of art, it has rolled into the 21st century, adapting, shifting, and conquering the new landscapes of media, enough that today’s wrestlers have marketable indy cred. It’s gained respectable recognition in popular culture (GLOW, The Wrestler). I’ll leave the question of our attraction to ritualized and symbolic violence to greater minds and say that for Slingshot Catapult, you don’t have to be sold on the creative nuances of professional wrestling to be struck by the words in these pages.

The personal and professional struggles of the characters/actors/lovers are laid out with honest, intimate language. However, when used against a backdrop known traditionally as “fake,” something happens, something is twisted. Through Dodge and Tracy we witness the limbs and bodies bouncing off each other, or else caught and paralyzed. The combination of fiction and nonfiction, the real bruises and the determined outcomes, is unified by the style of the lines, and creates a work that we watch more carefully. Whether or not events were written down beforehand, for Tracy to execute at that moment those sequence of moves with an opposite in full cognizance and preparation for that maneuver, there is nothing fictional about the force and bodily strain endured by the performer. The experience becomes in part a pursuit for where the truth of these events lie, both in the ring and in the motions of the real world.

Does the impact of these holds, pulls, and body blows matter less if they’ve been scripted? Is the exaggeration for the audience, or an expression of how it feels to be in the arena? Meadows doesn’t let the audience off the hook; for whose benefit are Tracy and Dodge’s elations and sufferings, whether together or alone, impulsive or choreographed? In either case, it seems, the presence of an adversary gives life and meaning to their actions. The doubling becomes a blurring. It shades each movement, remark, and grip—in the bathroom or the Waffle House—slipping in and out of what might be recognized as performance. Where does one end and the other begin? Meadows brings us into the squared circle and stages a confrontation with no clear victor: a poetic finishing move.