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How Much Do You Tip the Whipper?

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Love With A Slice of Wry
By Cynthia Robbins - The San Francisco Examiner

She looks like somebody's roly-poly Jewish auntie, talks like a Flatbush Betty Boop and writes poetry like Erica Jong on acid. You might say Harriet Kahn is fighting the battle of the sexes with starched Nerf balls and Quixote's lance.

Kahn's poems slings ideas in short bursts seasoned with a shock of recognition, like "The Lord is my shepherd / With no sense of direction". Some of it reads like "Songs to Leave Your Lover By." Love, requited and un-, is exposed, with all of its pitfalls and promises.

Usually, Kahn will make her point with a Dali-esque little zapper like "I'm looking for Louise / Or anybody else / Who can lie as well as she does/And still fit that dress."

Composers of country tunes should check out such lyrics as "Why Settle for Less, When You Can Have Nothing at All", "I'm Gonna Get It All Together So I Can Fall Apart Again", or "It's Check Out Time at the Counter of Love." Trendettes will love "Tofu Trucker", "Ego Man" or "Existential Stud." Or, catch this little ditty about commitment:

"I was never good at geography
So when you asked for all of me
I got lost quite suddenly
Somewhere south of good-bye."

These are not poems of an idle mind. Kahn's fertile brain zips along full-tilt. She says that she "writes these poems like a Ouiji board, they come out of nowhere."

Reading: Lover's Revenge
By Denise DeClue - The Chicago Reader

Some books defy conventional distribution, coming to us, it seems, in almost magical ways. Books we've never heard of or read about, that we've never even heard anybody talking about, sometimes leap into our arms, check themselves out on our library cards, follow us home from used bookstores, or make us steal them from persons we would otherwise do no wrong. They're out there waiting like the unmet friend to delight us and offer the solace we need most.

One night a book came at me in a slightly less subtle manner. It wasn't a gift or anything, just lying there on the table, looking like an ordinary small-publisher poetry book (there seems to be more of that going around these days; probably has something to do with rock video and the ever decreasing attention span of the American people). Anyway, it kicked me in the shins just to get my attention, then raged and spat and sputtered and hummed and giggled at me for the rest of the night. I read it again and again, out loud with expression to whomever I could trust (their numbers grew as the night wore on), quietly when I was alone at last.

The next day I wondered if I'd been carried away, and considered my possibly misplaced ardor for Harriet B. Kahn, some chick outa Sausalito with a nasty, bitter, lusciously mean-spirited little book of poems with a waiter's "guest check" cover called How Much Do You Tip the Whipper?

I picked it up and read it again, and knew why I thought it was the funniest, funkiest bit of female fury since I'd run into Fran Lebowitz's Metropolitan Life.

What I like about Harriet B. Kahn is the unflinching manner in which she conveys certain emotions that we so-called adults are often too embarrassed and mature to express. And good poets, I think, are people who can put down our own muddled thoughts and emotions into few and dead-on words.