About the Poems
by Jenn Koiter
I first came across Candy Jones's 1964 beauty manual, Look Your Best!, in the $1 book pile at a used bookstore in Colorado Springs. I have a longstanding weakness for beauty tips and early 60s fashion, so Candy Jones was right up my alley. The voice was smart and sly, and the attitudes about what women are and should be were cringe-inducing. Upon further investigation, I learned that Candy Jones was one of the original cover girls during the 1940s; during the 1950s and 1960s, she started a charm school, appeared on radio and television as one of the first beauty experts, and wrote a dozen books on etiquette, fashion, and makeup. In 1973, Jones claimed to have remembered, under hypnosis, CIA mind control experiments throughout the 1960s, during which she was trained, tortured, and sent on spy missions to China as “Arlene,” a second personality Jones had created during her abusive childhood and which was discovered and strengthened by her CIA hypnotist.
Between the style dictates and the spy stories, the public image Jones crafted for herself and the narratives that conspiracy theorists spun around her, I found myself in a jumble of secret identities and multiple selves. Collage seemed like an appropriate way to reflect that; the poems in verse are made of sentences from Look Your Best!, and the poem in prose addresses, in part, the many conflicting claims about Jones, including Jones's own conflicting statements about herself.