(By Geneva) Lucy Ives’s debut novel, Loudermilk, (also titled The Real Poet; Or, The Origin of the World), delights in the poet as both hapless person and omnipotent creator, allowing those definitions to define each other, and then, everything around them. The titular Loudermilk, an Adonis in Adidas, crushed by his good looks and limitless charisma, decides that the arena suited to his talents is the world of MFAs, where the hunchbacked, insecure, creative writing types will be near-immolated by the appearance of this flaxen hero. While Loudermilk will provide the person, his diminutive sidekick Harry will provide the poems: “How hard can it be?” Loudermilk remarks with beautiful uncaring. And, it seems, it isn’t hard at all. Harry proves himself to be a deft poet, happy to live in Loudermilk’s spare room, safe from the outside world, and Loudermilk reveals himself to be a stunning poet in his own right: just not when it comes to writing poems.
Because this is what makes Ives’s novel brilliant: beneath the levels of sarcasm, irony, and exuberant humor, the reader asks themselves what, exactly, a poet is. Because, as Loudermilk descends into an egotistical madness, and Harry questions who these poems are for, and the other students at their prestigious MFA gnash their teeth and rend their garments in intellectual jealousy, it seems that they all rely on each other, a delicate and oriented machine dependent on each small part. Harry’s poems reflect what he has heard second hand in workshops, Loudermilk reflects the praise these poems bring him, and the students, like a Greek Chorus, reflect only what they have been told, and they do so dutifully. Each person wants to be the other. No one knows how to say so.
Who then, do these poems belong to? Maybe no one: they are, in the place of the novel, just fiction. But then, what poem isn’t?