6/5/09

mfa bitches


At various points reading Brandon Scott Gorrell's DURING MY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN I WANT TO HAVE A BIOGRAPHER PRESENT I pictured myself sitting in a restaurant and feeling the same kind of emotions these poems are describing, except that in my real life these moments are experienced in more confused, unstated ways. Brandon's poems seem like accurate descriptions of common, daily feelings that make up large portions of my life but usually become vague and forgotten soon or immediately after they happen. Situations can seem exceedingly awful and then very quickly become neutral or even okay feeling in a way that diminishes the extreme despair of the initial feeling. It seems important to describe these kinds of experiences from the point of view of being inside them and experiencing how awful they seem; it seems like most depictions of this type come from a displaced emotional state that is extremely detached from the actual experience of normal, daily awfulness. These poems seem full and extreme in a way that is accurate in reality.

Brandon's poems are often concerned with large-scale destruction and I think often describe a kind of calm, personal apocalypse. The poems feel like being on a sidewalk and watching clouds that are maybe a storm and continually picturing the storm's potential for various levels of mild, isolated destruction and then feeling that this is simultaneously depressing, relieving and difficult to care about.

The book also portrays a struggle with "sincerity" in writing that is expressive of something. There is an open difficulty with what can be meant and what can't, what can be a meaningful last line of a poem or if nothing can be a meaningful last line of a poem, and so on. This comes across sometimes as self-consciousness or self-awareness but also sometimes just "purely" as content of a poem. Sincerity, I think, is more genuinely achieved in this book than in books that are both more and less self-referential.

Some of these poems are obvious in a way that feels comforting and honest (like "gmail"). Sometimes the poems are surprising and startling and make me think about Brandon spending time typing and editing the poems. I think a lot of people might not expect this from this kind of book.

There is a nice way in which a lot is accomplished with these poems, so that it does not feel like the poems are repeating themselves, even though there is a nice feeling of continuity in terms of what type of reality and depression is being described. I liked the two poems about John and the space alien. Reading them felt like reading the last poem in Raymond Carver's All of Us. It's called "Late Fragment":
And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Except somehow more honest and depressing because of whatever is too "poetic" about Carver's version.

At various points reading/looking at this book I thought things like "Chelsey Minnis" or "you are a little bit happier than i am" or "Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs" and I felt good thinking about these things. The back cover of the book features the words "anxiety" "low self-confidence" and "alienation" in the same way the back of Chelsey Minnis's Bad Bad features the words "DECADENT!" and "CHILDISH!" For some reason I got out all the books this book reminded me of. They make a pile of books that I really like having next to me. Feels good to add this one to it.

DURING MY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN I WANT TO HAVE A BIOGRAPHER PRESENT
by Brandon Scott Gorrell