The Cruelest Month

Well, I did it. I made it all the way through April and posted a book a day! Probably not a big deal, but it was tough for me since it was such a busy month.

Thanks to everyone who posted/sent/commented with encouragement and positive feedback! I’d love to see everybody else’s lists some day too.

Let’s just hope I can blog at all during May.

The Salt Ecstasies

Could not find a book cover, but perhaps because it is about to be rereleased by Graywolf as part of Mark Doty’s RE/view series that has republished so many great volumes of poetry.

I love books by Minneapolis poets. I do not know why. I love them when the poems are set in Minneapolis. It is a city unlike any other. In my memory, it is the only city. It is the city I go back to when I convince myself there will never be another winter. It is a city of people I love, people I loved, people I wanted to love.

And there was this book, which is so full of longing and yearning that you almost have to tear it in half as you read. It’s almost too much. It’s almost so dark and depressing you want to rush into it and shake him and say “GOOD GOD MAN IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD.”

But it is that bad. But it wasn’t always that bad, and that’s why this book sings. It remembers.

And that memory lingers like a curse.

Powerless

How odd, to have googled for an image of this book cover and discovered a photo of myself ca. 2006 among the results.

At first I thought this was like a designer imposter version of Frank O’Hara (“If you love O’Hara, you’ll LOVE Tim Dlugos!”). The flighty arrogance, the irreverence, the slight snobbery of knowing a lot about art in a society that prides itself on disregarding art. The flirtatiousness that is played both for comedy and for sting.

But Dlugos is more than that, becomes more than that through the course of this book. Disarmingly so. He writes the true thing, the awkward thing, the real thing that is so real it makes everyone in the room a little uncomfortable.

The poems are often lush, overfull, voluminous. They are litanies of the every day. And you know now how much I love a litany.

Kinky

I can still remember reading this book on the airplane back from an AWP conference. It might be because I wasn’t above playing Barbies with my girl friends when I was a kid that this book really appeals to me. I don’t think it’s limited to the Barbie experience, though–even my G. I. Joe action figures had complicated relationships and rich imagined lives, and took frequent and long-term exotic vacations together.

I love this book for its obsession. It relentlessly reinvents Barbie again and again.

Read one way, it’s stand up comedy.

Read a little more deeply, it’s a tender and touching tribute.

Read even further, it’s a smart and biting social critique, not just of Barbie or of the man’s world or standards placed upon women, but of the culture that is both blind to this fact and completely beholden to it.

Plus, the brilliance of all the invented Barbies–Mormon Barbie, Sister Barbie, Apocalyptic Barbie, Bisexual Barbie, just to name a few.

The Changing Light at Sandover

A book with a Ouija in it. Who knew you could have Ouija in a poem?

An abecedarian book. Then, numbers.

I love the way the two men in the book are so domestic and loving of each other. It gave me hope for this at a time when I had none. I also love how simply it is expressed–there is no grand outing. Their love is so clear it is not mentioned as such, but is evidenced as such.

The playfulness of messages from the beyond. This book feels like it was started as a lark, but then the lark became an eagle.

Fuck You — Aloha — I Love You

Here is a book I read that was intellectually interesting, emotionally compelling, and formally distinct from other work I’d been reading. Here is a book that I would consider poetry of rhetoric more than poetry of imagery, although the image of the Hawaiian punk rock singer screaming the title of the book stays with me. Here is a book that uses language like a chant. Language like a meditation. Here is a book that masquerades as an essay. It is a book about Hawaii, which I have come to love. It is a book about inside/outside, about native/intrusion, about culture/society. There are gymnasts in this book who make shapes with their bodies and the body, in this book, is a meaningful symbol like language. From this book I learned to be obsessive about the content of my work, to not just know it but to live it, but not to mistake what I live for the content of what I write.

Darker

I love how crazy this book is, how schizophrenic and obsessive and paranoid.

I admire small poems, their bravery and simplicity.

I praise the declarative sentence. I sometimes (as I do here) support end-stopped lines.

I acknowledge anaphora (“Giving Back”) and its effect.

I love list poems, poems that steal a form from outside poetry, and poems that make fun of the poetry life (“The New Poetry Handbook”).

I support litany.

I popularize and democratize gross overstatements that are ridiculous or paradoxical in nature (“The future is not what it used to be.”)

I am invested in poetry that is both funny and deadly serious, because my experience of the world is that it is simultaneously absurd and tragic.

I am a fan of simple titles.

If short lines were a Page on Facebook, I would “like” it.

I appreciate these poems are serious, but do not take themselves too seriously. I think this is an important distinction between sincerity and sentimentality.

I believe whenever there is a darkness, it hides a light. But that the light is still there.