Blogger and Blather

during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present, Brandon Scott Gorrell (44pp., $12, Muumuu House)
22 Skiddoo/ SubTractions, Michael Boughn (84pp, $18, BookThug)

Brandon Scott Gorrell's during my nervous breakdown i want to have a biographer present (his first collection) is a series of cheerily depressive poems about being obsessed with being who you are in a world in which your laptop plays a significant, indeed permanent part. A Seattle-based blogger - he is certainly Sleepless of Seattle - he puts his nervy, nerdy persona through a series of panic-station predicaments. The effect is Holden Caulfield meets R.D. Laing junior meets Adrian Mole:

     when i wake up in the morning
     i feel the same way i felt before
     i fell asleep the night before
     later in the day, i inevitably begin to feel like a confused alien
         with a soft head that could be easily smashed
     people are dying en masse
    i am here
    i got two emails today
    i was disappointed by both of them
    this happens on a daily basis
    what does my life mean
         ('face annihilation')

This could drive you round the twist, I know, but actually, although this is the kind of poetry I think -
i think, maybe - I have grown out of writing, let alone reading, it's rarely dull, and the repetitive subject-matter is part of its unaffected charm. And I did laugh. There's a web interview in which Gorrell, who is 25, admits that he thinks his poems will appeal to 16-18 year olds, and he's right. He is writing for, and as a member of a generation which, perhaps like every generation before it, feels depressed, alienated, self-conscious, and happy to admit it (as in his haiku, 'i want to buy love/ on ebay and bury my/ worried face in it'). I don't understand why some of the poems have been double-spaced, and others not. But I did lock into the energy of these poems, and their running obsessions, and the exuberant way in which the lines spill out.

Michael Boughn is a Californian who re-located to Canada in the Vietnam era, who is now in his sixties, and who worked with Robert Creeley. He's been publishing poetry for about fourteen years, and it's the kind of poetry which melds together the influences of jazz with almost any cultural impulse you care to name. The man is well-read. The epigraphs and references, whether relevant or not, betray it.  The book is actually two books - which one you read first depends on which way up you're holding the book.

But I don't get it, and I don't buy it. It's too far out on the edge, and maybe over it, so that the words, as they tumble out, look as if they have scrambled only into some semblance of order. I would honestly rather hear Tristan Tzara with a hangover, and I also promise you I am a fan of Gertrude Stein. For instance:

     Specificity moves the whole
     works into actual edge
     etched in night no matter
     how hard pull toward image
     gaggle diminutions increasingly
     thinning densities call out
     for simple modes of sale
          (opening of 'New Moon Minus One')

You could say that these thirty words are arranged in seven three-beat lines, that is, if you take a run at 'Specificity'. I would only ask how that opening stanza differs in quality from

     Specificity toward image
     moves the whole works
     etched in night no matter how
     hard pull into actual edge
     for simple modes of sale
     thinning densities call out
     gaggle diminutions increasingly

because these same thirty words, in a different order, offer me the same conundrum. SubTractions is Impenetrable, and 22 Skiddoo is like underwater scat.

          Bill Greenwell 2009