Patricia Lockwood (Fort Wayne, Indiana) grew up under extraordinary circumstances: her father started his career in the navy, working aboard a nuclear submarine during the Cold War, but later in life converted to Catholicism, eventually becoming a priest. As she was raised in an Ohio Catholic rectory, this gave her plenty of material for her immensely successful memoir, Priestdaddy, which appeared in 2017 and was quickly declared one of the best books of the year by The New York Times. She married at 21 and spent her time writing instead of going to college, making her an exception among other successful young poets of her generation.
Her first collection appeared with a small indie publisher and was well received. But Lockwood first gained major recognition when her long prose poem 'Rape Joke', based on a personal experience, went viral. She is the unofficial queen of Twitter: not only has she managed to build an huge following with her sharp commentary on current events and poetic turns of phrase, but she is also part of so-called Weird Twitter, an amorphous online community with a marked influence on the world of comedy which has unmistakably influenced the language of the internet, tackling our absurd reality with quick, elliptical phrases.
Her work pares down and critically questions the issues of the day using a combination of sharp wordplay and strong statements. In the process, small moments can reveal themselves to be sudden tipping points in the reader's way of thinking. This is illustrated in 'The Pinch', for instance, as the narrator becomes aware of her uniqueness while watching Trump on TV, transforming from a passive object to a subject who thinks and acts independently:
You see I was looking at the bodies all day. The unrolling skins of the politicians. Due to recent developments I could see every pore, and a moistness at the corner of the eyes.
I thought I would like to make that moistness.
These were new thoughts. Before, it had always been myself that I imagined: slashed to ribbons, pressed to the griddle, spinning on the tip of a sword. Peeled like a grape for a haunted house.
Touching on the universal from your personal experience, mobilising a generation famous for its shunning of literature: this is what Lockwood's work symbolises, and also in her interviews – which range from The Guardian to Rolling Stone – she time and time again shows herself to be advocating for just these possibilities.
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black. Octopus Books, Londen, 2012
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals. Penguin Books, Londen, 2014
Priestdaddy. Riverhead Books, New York / Allen Lane, Londen, 2017 (Memoir)