I can’t post this book’s cover because I think it is out of print, which is horrifying.
Speaking of innovation and formal experimentation and the “I” voice and cultural subversion and having balls, there’s Jim Elledge’s book, which was the first I’d read by him after one of my classmates told me about his work. If you know the Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, you know that Jim is the one who has kept this opportunity alive for GLBT poets–and thank God for that. But what you don’t know is how talented and bold Jim is in his own right.
The book is concerned with a domestic relationship between two men, elapsing over a series of poems that include the phrase “the Man I Love” in the title. “Elbow-deep in Dishwater, I Tell the Man I Love a Secret,” “The Man I Love Has a Bad Hair Day,” “14 Reasons Why I Mention Mario Lanza to the Man I Love Every Chance I Get,” “Billie Holliday, Our Rottweiler Puppy, Turns the Table on Me, the Beta Parent, as the Man I Love, the Alpha Parent, Said She Would Someday.” It is a book grounded in the reality of living in love, but the book is built on the back of the Egyptian Book of the Dead, which houses rites and rituals for guiding the souls of the dead to the afterlife. This is a book about the now, the here.
Two formally daring sections take root amid the domesticity. One, a section of poems constructed from footnotes to blank pages, pushes action and meditation into the same marginalized space. The other elevates the text across the top of the page like a stock ticker, one line elapsing over page after page after page. The book has three fields: the body of the page, its underworld, and its heaven.
I just reread the back of the book where it says this is a novel. For me, it is poems. It is the way novelists should learn to write. It’s a book that proved all bets could be off and you could still win.