Ugly Duckling Presse


Holly Melgard

Poetry | $12 $9
Fall 2017
Buy"Smothers with a weaponised sympathy ..."
Catcall is a poem in which a voice catcalls a guy passing by in a public place. Written for performance, the voice alternates between speaking directly to this guy and speaking indirectly about him within earshot.
Excerpt ˇ


What the fuck. Why is he like that? I mean, look at that butt. I totally want to cup his butt right now. That’s what I want to do. Yeah I want to do that to him now.

—What’s up, babybutt? Let me get your bod. Let me get your butt. Let me cup your butt. I need to cup your butt right now. What do you think about that? Come on. Let’s just cup butts for a minute. It’ll only take a minute. Oh come on. Let me cup you. It’s just butt cupping.

Look at how smooth his butt looks. It’s so smooth. You know the hairs on it are all soft. And silky. He’s probably got one of those rug butts that’s too soft to give you rug burn, that’s how silky it is.

—Oh come on, don’t be like that. I just want to touch your soft butt.
Close ˆ

About the Author

Holly Melgard
Holly Melgard is the author of the Poems for Baby trilogy, The Making of The Americans, Black Friday, Reimbursement (Troll Thread) and Cats Can’t Taste Sugar (Gaus PDF). Along with Joey Yearous-Algozin, she’s co-authored White Trash (Troll Thread) and Holly Melgard’s Friends and Family (Bon Aire Projects). She’s performed her poems and soundworks at such sites as the Kelly Writers House, New York Museum of Modern Art, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. Her writing has appeared in l’Officiel Art, 6x6, and the Best American Experimental Poetry 2015 anthology. A founding editor of Troll Thread press, she’s also co-curated the Segue Reading Series and co-edited P-Queue and Slightly West literary journals. She is currently writing her PhD dissertation on “Poetics of Ubiquitization: Textual Conditions of/for the Ubiquitous Computing Age” in the Buffalo Poetics Program, designing and co-editing Troll Thread press, teaching writing at CUNY, and living in Brooklyn, NY.

Advance Praise

Catcalling -- the most avid activity of your typical heterosexual male. But him, with his stock of singular and eccentric aphorisms, is no match for Holly Melgard's literalisations. In this age of purely symbolic and frankly banal 'pussy grabs back', Catcall's claustrophobic babble instead narrativises the absurdity of feminine caregiving labour: "Hey pretty big little cute guy. Do you need to cuddle? Do you?" Here, Melgard stages the real comedy, illustrating how any man's sense of power exhausts itself in his very fantasy of what 'woman' might do for him -- by actually embodying it. And so, she smothers with a weaponised sympathy, burrowing neurotic pathways into your emasculation. Hey baby, there's no escape. C'mon baby, you know how much I care.—Trisha Low
In Catcall, the pleasures of domestic language run wild, topsy turvy. Holly Melgard’s project brings me back to Fanny Howe’s writing on Pinnochio and the revolutionary play of mothers and children. At home, away from patriarchs and judges, Howe says, the imagination roams free. Except there are no mothers or children here, no puppets, and Melgard knows that you never really get away.—Stephanie Young
Catcall is great. Really. It’s a weird mix of tonal precision and conceptual ambiguity. Melgard’s rendering of speech is pitch-perfect, but she doesn’t reveal her procedure or intentions, leaving the book unframed. This makes the text—in which a relentless speaker insistently demands the affection of an unnamed interlocutor—more unsettling. It has something to do with the voice: as an intruder, as a weapon, as a form of intimacy. And it has something to do with careful listening and transcription. And it has something to do with repetition, harassment, and obsession. It’s creepy. And great. —Steven Zultanski
Catcall is a case history of obsession and record of its ambivalent performance. Holly Melgard’s words want to interpolate and dismantle the loved object, an object whose complete indifference—neither turning away nor turning towards—only enflames the compulsion to consume it, to degrade it, to ruin it or to be consumed, degraded, and ruined. As is the case with fanatics, this exhibitionist’s show needs an audience, a third to be enticed into the debasement and pleasures. Here we enter the realm of ritual where the workings of power become explicit, where the naming of desire as power, compels us to acknowledge the dynamic of consumption in all love. So on the one hand, Melgard’s Catcall obsessively, repeatedly calls out that no desire can exist beyond the forces of capital, yet on the other, the text’s motor is a kind of negation, that is, it protests with its refusal to be named or tamed. If the pretty big little cute guy were to offer up his baby bud buddy rug butt bod to be cuddled, the whole of it would collapse dully into a satisfied lap. Instead, the address to both object and accomplice is the event of the poem, and because the condition is public, shame enters with an insatiable appetite. I was compelled to draw a diagram to revel in Catcall’s tensions and delights.—Jocelyn Saidenberg