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  • By nickr
    Oct 15, 2009
    "local boy makes good" CONTEXT: until a few months ago i didn't have a head for poetry. i couldn't articulate what separated good poetry from bad poetry, and didn't get what all this poetry commotion was about anyway. last spring i enrolled in a contemporary poetry class hoping to remedy this situation, and also got a compendium of contemporary poets reading their work. after an arduous last semester of english graduate school -- that's right, you can cite this review as from an "authority" -- i continue to struggle with the technicalities of poetry (trochee? no, baby, i tested negative for that), but i've realized that the core element of all the poetry i value is authenticity and honesty about the human experience as it's actually lived, in a world where if your girl miscarriages part of you is probably halfway relieved and you hate yourself for it. In short, poetry is about a reader privately acknowledging a(n often taboo) commonality with a poet, realizing... More > that (s)he isn't so fucked up after all, or that maybe everyone's a little fucked up (and that maybe that ain't so bad). This makes the good poet heroic, because their acknowledgement is a necessarily dangerous public affirmation of self, social/psychic/ontological complexities inclusive. I don't think there's a question that the good poet puts everything on the line, then, when they publish a volume; poetical reception knows no condoms and has no discretion to speak of. The doctors wouldn't say it, but Baudelaire died of syphilis. + + + CRITIQUE: Merrick is no W.S. Merwin. He's not a Simic, he's not an Olds, and he's not an Eliot. He's not even a Bukowski. This is probably why I'm able to continue to enjoy his verse after 200 some odd pages (a halfway point). He's a poet in his early twenties writing about early twenties stuff -- legs, liquor, self-loathing, and malaise -- in an off kilter rhythym particular to himself. There's neither appropriation of voice nor hackneyed observations about god; there are no recognizeably borrowed poetic tropes. Because of this, [milk] may feel alien to some upon first read. In our culture of homogenization, this is an amazing feat. Exhibit A (predecessors): in a recording of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree," WB Yeats tinnily warns that his most famous poem is going to "sound strange if you are not used to it." Having just finished listening to four discs of canonized dead fellas reading their rhymes, Merrick's free jazz line breaks seemed strange to me at first as well. Also, he writes about hard-ons specifically where Donne might have metaphor-ed them into the Indian Subcontinent, swollen with spices. But, again, Merrick isn't Yeats or Donne. It's exactly his unapologetically unique style and voice -- fresh, strange, sometimes shocking -- that allow [milk] to read as both particular to the poet and somehow universal. This is a fine line, and a lot of poets who try to toe it end up sounding snarky or inauthentic. Unlike, say, Billy Collins, Merrick doesn't come off as self-aware and consequently coy, but relevant and worth reading. (cut to Lavar Burton: "But don't take MY word for it...") + + + FINAL THOUGHTS: Despite the above, I don't think the poet would really appreciate any sort of over-academizing of his work. My best recommendation, true to the author as i've read him, is that the other day I was drunk and drinking and began to recite "inadequate sex drive" to a group of friends.* I wasn't conscious of having memorized it -- it was one of many I read in an early morning subway binge -- but it came to me easily. I only have one other poem memorized in its entirety, and that's "America," by Allen Ginsberg. [milk] will always have prime realty on my bookshelf -- rent controlled. * it was well recieved. + + + ADDENDA: downloading instead of getting a hardcopy is an unforgiveable mistake. this book is best read in bars.< Less
  • By Edwin T Merrick V
    Jun 24, 2006
    "Re: local boy makes good" nick certainly understands what he's talking about re: addenda. i've only included this downloadable feature for you the cruelest of word consummers. it is meant for readers who are completely hard up on cash or in desperate need of one (or all) of the poems while lacking a copy of the book on hand. i can understand not carrying it around with you as this is not a pocket sized poetry companion, but a true weighted mass of print and paper. i would have to say though that were you to carry this book around with you while out and about, you could certainly use it in your defense in deadly situations where you lacked access to pepperspray or a blackjack. that being said, and while firmly ignoring mention of the rest of the review due to a strong respect for unbiased critique, i'll give my regards to the gallery and then duck out the back.
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Product Details

First Edition
Edwin T Merrick V
May 2, 2006
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.37 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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