I Take Back the Sponge Cake by Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson Review

I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose-Your-Own-Adventure 

By Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson

Paperback, 64 pages
Poetry and Artwork
Rose Metal Press March 2012
ISBN: 978-0-9846166-4-0
$14.95

A Choose Your Own Adventure Book Review by Nicelle Davis
I Take Back the Sponge Cake is an illustrated lyrical choose-your-own-adventure collaboration between poet Sierra Nelson and visual artist Loren Erdrich. This book is amazing; I can’t say enough good things about this book that would capture the joy it inspires. The content of this book covers the spectrum of emotions, however it makes depths of fear and sadness approachable. This collection of images, poems, and choices is a real demonstration of how art can be infused with life—how art can become an extension of life.Because I am unable to be an objective observer of this book, I felt like it was essential for me to find others to give this book a proper review. As a homage to the work of Sierra Nelson and Loren Erdich, I have created a choose-your-own-adventure review.Please read Section I, if you would like The Uncensored Critics view of the book.Please read Section II, if you would like The Unsuspecting Critics view of the book.Please read Section III, if you would like The Critics as Audience view of the book.And please read all three sections of this review, if you are having a fun with this review.

I. The Uncensored Critics

To begin this review, I invited some of the most uncensored and hard to please critics I know (a team of grade school children).

These critics gathered to help me make costumes based on the illustrations found in, I Take Back the Sponge Cake. While we waited for the paper mache to dry, I read the book to these harsh critics. They really enjoyed the homophones. They chose “wait” over “weight” when it came to heartbreak, and that made all the difference in how their version of the story unraveled. When I asked them why they chose “wait” over “weight,” they explained that “their hearts are always light,” so a heavy heart sounded like a bunch of nonsense to them.

When I asked them how the book made them feel, they explained, “The eyes are watching you—always watching you—and you can’t get away. That is scary.” They also said that the pictures are “creepy and spooky, but that is okay because they like creepy and spooky pictures.”

My son admitted to being “confused and scared” by I take Back the Sponge Cake, but he said he would like for me to read it to them again.

II. The Unsuspecting Critics

After the glue and paint dried on our costumes, we took I Take Back the Sponge Cake to our local Sagebrush Café. There we met with a group of bright and kind college students.

We asked them if they would like us to read them a story. They were delighted to be dragged into the adventure. 

The illustrations were brought to life by our costumes. The college students’ childhoods where resurrected by the book’s format. Really, the only comments I could get from any of these critics was their infectious laughter intermixed with a chorus of “Whoa, no way!” Joy filled every crevasse of the coffee house by the time we finished the book.

III. The Critics as Audience

Next we took I Take Back the Sponge Cake to share with an open-mic poetry event. It was a mature audience, but once we began to read the book, everyone clapped and cheered like children. Even at the books most heart wrenching moments (and there are many places in this book that move me to tears) the audience chuckled at the cleverness of the words and images.

People came up after the performance and commented on “how interesting and different” the book seems. Yes, this is a different sort of poetry book, yet it keeps all the traditional aspects that make poetry magical. I Take Back the Sponge Cake is interesting because it layers even more magic on top of an already mystical medium.

 

If you love to feel joy, you should read I Take Back the Sponge Cake. (Costumes are optional, but highly recommended.)

 

Loren Erdrich (left) is a mixed-media visual artist working primarily in drawing, sculpture, performance, and video. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, both individually and as part of CultureLab Collective. A 2011 show at the Joan Cole Mitte Gallery in Texas featured her work alongside that of Louise Bourgeois, Kiki Smith, and Félix González-Torres. Loren completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a BA and BFA respectively. She received her MFA in 2007 from the Burren College of Art and the National University of Ireland. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Sierra Nelson’s (right) poems have appeared in CrazyhorsePoetry NorthwestCity Arts Magazine,Forklift OhioPainted Bride Quarterly, and DIAGRAM, among others. For over a decade she has collaboratively written and performed as co-founder of The Typing Explosion and the Vis-à-Vis Society, including at the 2003 Venice Biennale and on the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Washington and is a MacDowell fellow. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

Loren and Sierra continue to collaborate under the name Invisible Seeing Machine.