Elvis Presley’s Hips and Mick Jagger’s Lips by Susana H. Case (A Review)

By Adam Petrash

Case - Cover - 9781937536367 - 2.indd

Anaphora Literary Press
ISBN: 978-1-937536-36-7
80pp. | $15.95

Do you remember the feeling you had when you first got your driver’s license and you took your first car ride with that certain girl or boy that you were really into? You felt the endless possibilities of the open road and a sense of freedom and independence that could only be felt in your youth. Feeling the excitement and anticipation at the possibility of scoring in the back seat parked far down a dirt road and under a canopy of stars. You cranked the radio up to 11 and played songs you didn’t realize at the time would become the soundtrack to that moment and encapsulate it forever. That is what you’ll find in Elvis Presley’s Lips and Mick Jagger’s Lips.

Although the title suggests something that could be interpreted as tongue-in-cheek the collection of poems is anything but. Divided into three parts most of the book feels like a documented history of youth, love, rock n’ roll music, heartbreak and sex– recollecting personal memories and events that happened years ago but that appear to have been written in the here and now. For example, in “A Jamaican Sailor’s Forbidden Love” Case writes,

“Holed up in my bedroom playing hooky from school, we play the Kingsmen’s disc at 33RPM, instead of 45RPM and listen really hard to “Louie Louie’s” forbidden words. The lyrics are impenetrable – so we unspool the mental lexicon of the ones we know, try to fit them to the sounds. In my girl-crowd, shock is sexy, subversive, cool.”

Or to quote from “Down Lonely Street” wherein Case writes:

“His sex was empathized by a rumored Coke bottle
stuffed in his crotch.
Feverishly, I fixed on Ed Sullivan,
gatekeeper of childhood,
wanted only to see
the rock, the roll
of Presley’s televised pelvis.”

As a reader it’s interesting to read musically historical facts turned into poetic verses. From events such as the Who’s Riverfront Coliseum concert that killed seven people in 1979 to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper – but if you’re not familiar with these tragic events, or the artists, it’s hard to connect yourself to the words on the page. That being said, the poems that stand out the most are the ones where Case entwines personal memories with rock n’ roll history. For example, in “Blank Beauty” she writes,

“Each Ramone rejects individuation by wearing the same leather and denim, a Neo-Leo Strauss version of punk, though Joey Ramone is heavily liberal (Johnny Ramone is hardcore right). I wear leather and denim too. The Ramones are from my high school and later when I’m in Youngstown, I feel I’m on a parallel track with the band, and that showing up in London will lead to success for me. But no matter how many times I go, success never happens.”

The end result is a collection of poems that showcases how relevant music is in shaping an individual’s feelings and memories. Elvis Presley’s Hips and Mick Jagger’s Lips proves that music and its history is definitely the soundtrack to our lives or, in this case, the book.

Adam Petrash is a writer who was born, raised and lives on the frozen tundra we call the Canadian Prairies. Although he still can’t believe how much it still snows here he continues to call Winnipeg home. Follow him or don’t follow him on Twitter @AdamPetrash.

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