Kim Vodicka
The Elvis Machine

Clash Books, 2020
Paperback, 196 pages

A poetry collection like none I’ve ever read, Kim Vodicka’s The Elvis Machine has a powerful emotive force. It has a rhythm that make you want to read out loud. It’s a poetry collection to dance to. But what sticks with me, most of all, is its demand. 

The Elvis Machine is a call out to men and women to get on board with Vodicka’s particular brand of sex-positive feminism. It’s a vision of a world where men can treat women as people without losing their erections. It’s a prophecy, foretelling a future where women find our fundamental kinship more compelling than competition. It’s a world where men’s attention isn’t something to fight about, though it is something that happens, beautiful and brutal in its instances.

Vodicka’s writing is clever and well-paced in its form, but raw and visceral in its content. Sex is everywhere, just like we were taught it was—that lingering patriarchal premise we’re supposed to take into account in all of our actions, the one that says that all you are to man, as a woman, is sex. But Vodicka isn’t so much owning that designation as she is re-appropriating it. The book isn’t all about sex; what Vodicka does is reintegrate woman’s sexual being into a fuller concept of woman as human. After a very public breakup and separation of assets, sex and love are back together. Sometimes it’s still awkward, like they were thrown into a room together and told to work it out, and what we’re seeing in Vodicka’s book is that whole process spread across the page. But it makes for some hilarious moments, like when she writes in “Blue Flowers”:

I want you to regard me as a complete human being. 

I want you to respect me. 

I sucked eight dicks at once and still respected myself. 

You better loosen up that Bible Belt 

cuz I’m a cum dumpster, 

and it’s garbage day. 

But with all of its humor, the tone of the book isn’t light. Kim Vodicka fucks with feeling, and it gets heavy. From “Requiem for an Exclusive”:

For every suicidal housewife dress, 

there’s a man out there by design. 

For every suicidal housewife dress, 

there’s a man who drove her to it. 

When I find that dress, 

I’ll know I was born to die in it. 

When I find that dress, 

I’ll know I was born for you to rape me in it. 

I’ll put it on.

I saw Kim Vodicka on social media once claim that she got into poetry for the dick. But there’s a demand associated with that too. I wouldn’t call this book erotic. If men are reading it, I don’t think they’ll make it out without some deprogramming and reprogramming—without complicating the concept of woman as sex object with her attendant humanity. If women are reading it, I don’t think they’ll make it out without crying a few times and wanting to be Kim Vodicka’s best friend. I just want to be around where this revolution is happening. 

“Womaniacal Manimal Control” is not only brilliant for its title (Vodicka’s manipulation of words throughout is brilliant), it feels like she is speaking to me directly, and I am listening.

Dump your boyfriend, 

and be our girlfriend. 

Dump your boyfriend, 

and join our cult. 

They all want to fuck you, 

and badly. 

It’s a pass/fail 

on the insertion spectrum.

Let us be your boyfriend.

Even then, that story doesn’t have a happy ending:

Why are we only sisters 

until the disembodied hard cock 

arrives on a silver platter 

and wins?

And that’s what makes it real. Because the revolution isn’t going to go smoothly. Some people are going to get hurt, and some are going to get left behind. We’re going to grieve their loss in the vision of a reality Vodicka foretells. 

About the Author

Charlene Elsby has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from McMaster University, where she worked on Aristotle’s notion of non-existence. She is the President of the North American Roman Ingarden Society and Vice President of the North American Society for Early Phenomenology. She is the author of several academic works on metaphysics, ontology, aesthetics, literature and logic. Her first novel, Hexis (Clash Books), was published in February 2020 and her second novel, Affect (The Porcupine’s Quill) will be published in October.