Chris Courtney Martin’s The Book of Idle Poems, Reviewed by Dan Cuddy

Chris Courtney Martin, The Book of Idle Poems,  Alien Buddha Press, Columbia, SC 2022 ISBN 9798818811741  65 pages  $10.44

Chris Courtney Martin is a poet but she was trained and is practiced as a screenwriter. It is a role and a function that the average poet doesn’t even conceive, at least consciously. She has won awards as a screenwriter after being educated at Drexel University in the art of screenwriting. However, educated in her chosen art, the rules of the game, as perhaps all the rules in society, are made by the money-holders whose goal is not the soul or the human being but to continually, and often parasitically, enrich their material wealth and sociopathic values. Ms. Martin says something similar but more pointed in the introduction to her book. One very pointed statement is this:

These days, it seems that no format holds less value to Hollywood than s screenplay Novels, news articles, even social media posts have a better shot at making it on-screen than a concept designed specifically, painstakingly for that purpose alone.

The moving pictures in my head and heart are fully realized. When committed to 12 pt. COURIER VIEW they are no less intellectual than outside mediums, nor any less a property. Whether based on my own life, an old and underestimated piece of cinema I can’t afford to touch without the backing of a major studio, or a maladaptive daydream—I live in these screen stories. And the idea that they may not see the light of day because they must transcend echelons of approvals before the intended audience can see what I see—it’s nothing short of a trigger. Especially when “Based on (Something Nobody I know Personally Cares About)’ is the tag line of the decade.

So, what’s a writer to do…….?

Write, is what they do.

Ms. Martin states she has not decided to dilute her imagined screenplays by taking years to write a novel, but to distill her vision into poetry. This book is a group of “idle” poems.  She states

The essences of my would-be passion projects ring throughout these poetic verses. They are odes to what I’d put on your screens if H-wood ever stops playin’. Some are based in concept, others in character voice or internal world. (And yet, a couple even nod to my personal reboot wish list.) There is something rebellious about returning to my adolescent outlet of lyrical poetry for this venture; simplicity, freedom and autonomy douse the flaming hoops screenwriters are forced through to have a minuscule shot at presenting their projects to those who can make them.

Though in one way it is unimportant, but in another way, it is most important who Ms. Martin is. At the end of her book as she gives a somewhat detailed bio of herself. She says ”I’m black. I’m fat. I’m Non-Binary-Queer. And I have a lot of feelings. Those feelings yield a lot of words.

There is a photo of her. She has a round, kind face. From that picture you would not expect the fire from her pen, but she is who she is and that is a very complex and talented human being. Her writing is a witness to that.She would be most interesting to talk to. In a sense she talks to you in her poems. She has different voices she uses. Some are very sophisticated and travel in a world with an occupation the average reader doesn’t have. In another voice she is a child and though her words may seem slangy and naïve, they are very meaningful and sophisticated.

What poems should I choose to give a preview of the book? Each poem is unique in a way. They all have their individual voice. Some are quite angry, but consider….

Les Immigre’s

He calls me exotic
In my own mother-(fucking)-tongue
Like I don’t know what it means

Excuse the French
(but That you really might not—they will take advantage)

There is a reason, after all, why we even speak it
There is no excuse in history for that fact
Like I don’t know what the fuck it means

The law of the land decrees;
I’m supposed to want to fuck him
That would be Double Jeopardy
I know my Constitution plus
Magna Carte-Blanche

I’m good.

Nevermind my mother, who herself would want me to fu-
—ully consider entertaining his advances

Nevermind his mother, who herself looks like his sister
And is waiting
With Bambi’s Mama’s eyes
For me to simply say it

She won’t get the satisfaction.

Nor will he.

Cased closed.

As are legs.

Perhaps a genteel disposition (there are a few) would be averse to the f-word, but it is essential to the subject matter of the poem. Plus, it embodies the grittiness of the street and an essential level of the human animal, just as the French, in a referential allusion, Implies the polite social ritual camouflages the beast.

A second poem I want to present that shows a bit of her range as a poet, though she also has poems written in black dialect that would do Lucille Clifton proud, is the poem “Mort Bids.”

Fifty per percent of my chromosomes imply origins in Hades
The other half can be traced to Dante’s Ninth Circle

When fundamentalists say that being a good person is not enough to see the gates of

It feels as though they address me directly

Looking in-camera

The sins of the Father and Mother make a hefty inheritance

With taxes I’ll be too busy paying off
To find the time
Moral degeneracy
To plant my own seed and curse it with life

And the injuring burden of Choice

Who was the first to come up with the phrase

The very idea of
“Sell your soul”
They ought to teach him
(An indubitable HIM)
Alongside Lechter and Kiyosaki

Were they married

By the way
I pray they didn’t have children

Who are Lechter and Kiyosaki? They are the co-authors of Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter C.P.A.  The book is all about “What the Rich teach their kids about Money that the Poor and Middle Class do not>”. Lechter sued Kiyosaki claiming he enriched himself over a business that she helped found.  Kiyosaki is one of those financial gurus, a two hundred dollar bill with the ink still drying. Apparently, they settled out of court, but probably not as contrite friends, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper. Little details like this punctuate the poems.

Ms. Martin’s study of her own genetics is not promising. The two halves make an uneasy whole, but her expression of the situation makes its point well—-a lot of emotional turmoil inherited—at least for the poem’s conception.

There are also two essays at the close of the book after the poems but before the two-page detailed bio. One is called “Breaking Breton”. The Breton in question is a modern update Andre Breton, the father of surrealism, who now teaches at a university. The class of students were sadists. Interesting scenario. Any relation to reality—yes. The other essay/story is called “The Business.” Cash-strapped at school the author goes to hear about a business proposition. I reproduce two paragraphs to demonstrate the skill of Ms. Martin’s prose.

The following evening, I made my way downtown on the Drexel Shuttle.  I carried my laptop bag by the side handles, straps tucked in like some sort of pseudo-briefcase. Following a brisk time check, I whisked through the revolving brass hotel doors and up a flight of stairs to the second floor—exactly where I needed to be. The sign-in table was guarded by a little old West Indian woman. I put my John Hancock on the appropriate clipboard, and she rewarded me with a red ticket, which I relinquished to the doorman a good ten paces away.

The room was small, stuffy. That could have been attributed to the fact that everyone was dressed in business attire and predisposed to discomfort. To make matters worse, the chairs were lined up leg-to-leg in order to make room for a center aisle. This made for awkwardly close quarters, and the only thing worse than a room full of sweaty strangers was a room full of sweaty strangers touching one another. SOBER. Yet for some reason, I appeared to be one of the select few in the room with a grievance against the conditions. The vast majority wore Cheshire Cat grins, chittering excitedly amongst themselves. I loosened a couple of buttons to get some airflow between Thing One and Thing Two, wondering how the hell nobody   else seemed to notice that we’d walked into Mount Doom.   

It would be interesting to see one of Ms. Martin’s screenplays and the scripts.  Her writing is diverse. Her talent stretches over many categories. Moreover, she has something to say and says it well.

© Chris Courtney Martin and Dan Cuddy

Chris Courtney Martin is a Black Non-Binary/Queer writer-producer-psychic originally from Philadelphia, PA. In 2014, they graduated from Drexel University with a degree in Screenwriting and Playwriting, with dual Minors in Film & Video and Art History. Their time in undergrad yielded publication in the Triangle (student newspaper) and the school’s annual anthology, The 33rd. Martin’s screenwriting credits include “PALE HORSE”– the upcoming feature directorial debut of Gabourey Sidibe. With their unproduced screenplays having garnered several accolades, including wins at Urbanworld and Emerging Screenwriters as well as mentions on the Young & Hungry and Bitch Lists, Martin sees a return to poetry and other literature to be the next test of their writing chops. 
Martin came out as Non-Binary and accepts the pronouns They/Them/Theirs.

Dan Cuddy is currently an editor of the Loch Raven Review. Most recently he has had poems published in the End of 83, Broadkill Review, Welter, the Twisted Vine Literary Journal, the Pangolin Review, Madness Muse Press, Horror Sleaze Trash, the Rats’s Ass Review, Roanoke Review.

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