My Safe Word Is Harder
Author: McKenna Clarke
Publisher: Really Serious Literature (2020)
"Staring hard at vulnerabilities and refusing to look away, these poems invite us to be radically uncomfortable and to confront what it might mean to transcend ourselves. With Clarke, we can fantasize about a beautiful death, about lovers who don't use us as means to their pathetic ends, about highs that don't wear off and leave us feeling broken, about automutilation that can show us ourselves—knowing all the while that our fantasies can't save us. I needed this book and its honesty. I needed these poems."
"This cunning debut is a body navigating its own violence. Murder plots on lovers and self are soldered portraits of lust, gore, and self-image bedazzled by sanctified metaphor steeped in brutality and hopefulness that thumbs its nose at convention. My Safe Word Is Harder will have you hearing Clarke's 'crazy head thoughts' and humming them on your way to an existentialism sprouting through concrete."
–Freddy La Force
"McKenna Clarke knows well that life is composed of three, and only three, things: body horror, melodrama, and pornography. She's the David Cronenberg of poetry. This book is her Videodrome.
These are poems about not knowing who you're drawn to, about not understanding why others are drawn to you, and about killing, maiming, and disfiguring yourself in spectacular ways. But it doesn't matter how you kill yourself. The end result is the same, and you'll never remember the theatrics. You will remember these poems, though. But only if you read them. You should definitely read them.
My Safe Word Is Harder is the poetry equivalent to a YouTube video that explains how to perform complicated surgery. In this world, it's absolutely necessary."
–Nathaniel Kennon Perkins
"The poems in My Safe Word Is Harder hit. They cut like a razor across the soft flesh of your wrists as you lie in the tub. Both beautiful and vulgar. Rest assured that McKenna Clarke pulls no punches."
"Life itself is like a car with a check engine light on. Life is riding down the road in that car, looking out the side window and thinking about how beautiful the moon looks, only to realize you're staring at a streetlight. I know this, you probably know this, and McKenna Clarke absolutely knows this. In My Safe Word Is Harder, Clarke takes us down the every-which-way of abandon, the absurd sex-lies-and-videotape that builds the reality around each of us—the lives we try to pretend our way through. None of it is safe but nothing about life is safe. In her debut, McKenna leads us through the dark—and the light, each one never quite complimenting the other—and you wouldn't really want it any differently. If there was ever a time or a place for such a set of poems, that time is today."
–Joshua Robert Long