Thank you to Wolsak and Wynn for providing me with a copy of this book at the 2014 Toronto Word on the Street festival.
I am amazed how profound the observations in poetry can be these days. They seem to come across at times unhindered by politics and paradigms giving a deeply honest look at the human condition. One such collection is the Archive of the Undressed by Jeanette Lynes. Her thoughts and observations are collected here as she pondered a collection of vintage Playboy magazines, giving insight of not only the 1960s and 70s but our time today.
TO THE READER OF VIGOUR AND TASTE (Page 5)
Yes you in your argyle sweater Hardwick-crested jacket silver and teak
precision lighter that strikes up “Dixie” each time you spark your
You whose slacks are habit forming
Whose interiors refulgently grandiose
You scented with Black Watch shave lotion for ’round the clock
You with audio fidelity, discerning ears, woofers tweeters in walnut
You with your electric pencil sharpener your rechargeable flashlight
fountain pen with exclusive snorkel reloading feature.
You with the giant pepper mill the nimble wits
Whose “Mairzy Doats”
You who surround yourself with walnut
who cha cha
who pronounce buttons a bore
who are too hipster for houndstooth
too busy for bongo drums
You who appreciate a good crisp lagoon
Who demand a close shave
You purveyor of midnight suppers in midtown with stainless sett steak
knife sets in walnut cases collapsible silver-plated cups
You with no patience for bothersome antediluvian holdovers
You who prefer to make like a bunny
You who have made four equilateral triangles from cigarettes
You whose party yacht is called The Mayflower
You on daylight savings time (Cartier ultra-thin evening watch)
Yes you, with time to watch
I’m talking to you –
Playboy magazines from that era still hold a certain mystic and allure to them. Lynes has look at these magazines and given some profound thoughts to what they stood for and what they realistically were.
Untitled (Page 12)
The old grey mare ain’t who she used to be –
surprised it all devolves to elegy,
to body? Don’t be, there’s always a body,
missing or not. Lovely or less.
Historic. Histrionic, Hysterical.
Lost in space or not. Girlish. Ghoulish.
Shot to death and swarmed by ants
or not. Either way, the world
wishes to view and will pay.
Disappointed, they’ll request a refund.
It’s a very exacting world
in the body department and never
over easy, always hard.
Waist knot, want knot.
Body is poultry, so many cartons of eggs.
Dairy. Milk. Mare. Mummy. Centre. Fold.
But this isn’t always hyping up the glamour from these magazines. Lynes comments and thoughts are frank and bold at times, shocking the reader out of the magical stupor they might find themselves in.
Dorothy Ekpharstic (excerpt) page 28
She fell into an ocean that day and no one noticed.
Playboy was too busy adoring her, dubbing her life
a fairy tale. Quoting her ambition –
to be surrounded by pets –
(a girl could claim this back then and remain
valid in everyone’s eyes). She her, still chaste
in pink let warmers. Topless as the girl next door.
Now she tosses the ball to a puppy that doesn’t
see she’s undressed, also how they found her
shot dead. Nude. No puppy. Only construction crews of ants
dragging red bridges across he chilled bare back.
Lynes observations are also astute. She complies them here in a profound manner that only poetry can show to any reader.
The Oldest Living Swinger in Canada (Page 38)
He parks his ancient Buick on the main drag,
Princess Street, near banks, cafes,
a stone’s toss from S & R Department Store
with its living elevator operator who resembles
a dead Bee Gee. Yes, the oldest swinger
in Canada brakes his buggy buffed with love
amidst all this glamour. Weather means zilch to him.
I first saw him on winter’s most dire day, walkers
picking their way along Bagot, muttering prayers
into their scarves. His Buick equipped with state-
of-the-art eight-track, windows wide open,
Glenn Miller or Artie Shaw full tilt. I was about to tell
a mental health professional nothing good
remained in this world when I noted
the nation’s oldest living swinger,
his passion pit parked, big band cranked,
his bald head tilted back, joggling
to the riffs. His eyes closed,
mouth open, gums aglow,
pink galleries of pure bliss.
And yet the thoughts here are still deeply personal. Lynes has carefully put her words on these pages carefully with complete consideration. The phrases are worth reading and re-reading over and over again just so the mind’s eye can clearly see what is being said.
Begin The Slow Peel of Elbow Gloves (Introduction, excerpt) pages 1-2
The triggering muse for this collection is a stack of vintage Playboy magazines I’ve been immersed in for the past four years. Dating mostly from the 1960s and ’70s, these magazines have been my constant travelling companions across our extreme-trek-of-a-country, more than once contributing to overweight baggage charges. It seems the ’60s and ’70s are now considered “vintage.” These magazines’ glossy heft and sumptuous contents became for me an archive with a curious staying power. If they fed a fetish, it has been as much for their funky fonts, retro colours, and unfettered period capitalism, as for each issue’s highly staged photo shoot of “the girl next door.” I read them for the articles, of course! But also the pleasure of contrast, juxtaposition – a John Kenneth Galbraith piece beside an ad for Interwoven University Socks in glacier blue, dune grass, wild oats, or buckwood brown. A rousing editorial next to ads for underwear of Harley-Davidsons.
Veiled beneath its script of hedonism and racy “entertainment for gentlemen,” Playboy has always essentially been a conduct book for men. Its readers could access the regular Advisor column (a kind of reverse-mirror-image Ann Landers) along with the consumer orgy of ads for cars, cologne, whiskey, cigars, clothing, stereos with silky response and party-proof walnut finish, offers of memberships in vinyl record clubs. What to buy. Where to travel. What to cook for romantic dinners. Recipes (booze-laced, surely sponsored by liquor companies). Vintage Playboy was a primer on how to pursue the good life. To read it as a woman is to occupy the position of a voyeur – to join a club of voyeurs, as it were, with is transgressive tingle. Gloria Steinem said, famously, documenting her undercover stint at the Manhattan Playboy Club, “All women are bunnies.” It makes you think. But we are also lookers. We like to watch as much as the next guy. As the snuggle-toothed vendor at the Kingston, Ontario, fleas market told me when I purchased yet another infusion of vintage Playboys, “It’s all women that buys them.” It makes you think.
Archive of the Undressed by Jeanette Lynes is a great collection of poetry and a brilliant piece of literature. Her thoughts and observations are unique, giving great thought to the human condition.