Dear Selec­tion Committee

  • Review
By – October 31, 2022

Melis­sa Stud­dard is already an accom­plished poet, but her newest col­lec­tion—Dear Selec­tion Com­mit­tee—feels spe­cial. Framed as a job appli­ca­tion, the book dis­rupts and active­ly fights against the ways that work has tak­en over people’s lives in recent years. Sur­pris­ing and defi­ant, Studdard’s poet­ry feels espe­cial­ly poignant now, as a reces­sion and infla­tion loom overhead.

Most of the poems includ­ed in Dear Selec­tion Com­mit­tee are flam­boy­ant, and they embrace the lux­u­ries of the body. In fact, the body is cen­tral to Studdard’s col­lec­tion. The epony­mous first poem, Dear Selec­tion Com­mit­tee,” sets this tone for the works to come. The speak­er writes, Dear Selec­tion Committee,/ I would like to be con­sid­ered for the position/​of drink­ing a bot­tle of chardon­nay every night/​and then mak­ing love with the most beau­ti­ful person/​I know until we both pass out.” The book rev­els in the joys of phys­i­cal plea­sure to the point of extrav­a­gance; it’s the speaker’s main goal. For Stud­dard, find­ing such joy in the body is the work of being a per­son today.

Anoth­er poem, The Angel,” rejects com­pet­i­tive indi­vid­u­al­ism in favor of coop­er­a­tive com­mu­ni­ty build­ing. The speak­er explains, I was competing/​about some­thing finan­cial, but the duck’s/ extra­or­di­nary luck made me say No man,/ this shit won’t fly.Liv­ing a good” life, accord­ing to Stud­dard, means appre­ci­at­ing the ordi­nary as if it were the extra­or­di­nary, and shar­ing these expe­ri­ences with the peo­ple around us. When so many feel anx­ious about their jobs, Studdard’s poet­ry serves as a reminder that the work of embrac­ing one­self and one’s needs is equal­ly, if not more, important.

A key part of this work involves lean­ing into cre­ativ­i­ty. For Dear Selec­tion Com­mit­tee, a pri­ma­ry means of escap­ing the talons of the cor­po­rate world comes through artis­tis­tic pur­suits. In that way, the collection’s appli­ca­tion is real­ly an appli­ca­tion to be an artist. In the poem Inside the Beige Brick House, the Beige Rooms,” the speak­er express­es their desire to escape con­ven­tion and tra­di­tion­al expec­ta­tions: I buried/​every­thing they told me to bury. Then, I dug it up again” (12). As the collection’s form implies, this expec­ta­tion to bury our­selves is a cap­i­tal­ist project, ensur­ing that we fol­low a mapped-out exis­tence. For the speak­er of the poem, what we’ve been made to bury is essen­tial to liv­ing a full life — and it can only stay buried for long.

Dr. Megan Reynolds is the Devel­op­ment Man­ag­er for the Nation­al Book Foun­da­tion. Before join­ing the Nation­al Book Foun­da­tion, Megan Reynolds served as the Devel­op­ment Coor­di­na­tor at Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. Megan holds a Ph.D. in Eng­lish from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ore­gon and BA in Eng­lish with minors in Cre­ative Writ­ing and Span­ish from Trin­i­ty Uni­ver­si­ty. She is orig­i­nal­ly from New Mex­i­co and now lives in New York City.

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