Since his poems first began to appear in the pages of "The New Yorker" and "Poetry," there has been a lot of excited talk about the fresh and inventive work of Michael Robbins.Read more...
Since his poems first began to appear in the pages of "The New Yorker" and "Poetry," there has been a lot of excited talk about the fresh and inventive work of Michael Robbins. Equal parts hip- hop, John Berryman, and capitalism seeking death and not finding it, Robbins's poems are strange, wonderful, wild, and completely unlike anything else being written today. As allusive as the Cantos, as aggressive as a circular saw, this debut collection will offend none but the virtuous, and is certain to receive an enormous amount of attention.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-04-23
- Reviewer: Staff
The poems in this debut are formally exact: etched into scrupulous quatrains and quintets, prosodically meticulous, exasperatingly well-rhymed (“Rorschach blots,” for example, is coupled with “Arnold Horshack thoughts”). Yet what makes this collection distinct is a convulsive, almost frenzied use of cultural reference, with vamps on Adorno, Rilke, Berryman, and Wittgenstein, among others. More often, the poems cite pop songs, film dialogue (“Dude, this aggression will not stand” from The Big Lebowski), and American folk culture (“My name is Michael, I’m an alcoholic./Hi, Michael. Row your boat ashore”). Yet this is more than simple allusion. Robbins’s ear is tuned to the caffeinated jabber of digital culture, with its endlessly clickable, synaptic links; the flotsam of poems, megastore names, and childhood rhymes get battered about, and the original language re-emerges transformed. Santa urging his reindeer becomes a call to heavy metal bands: “On Sabbath, on Slayer, on Maiden and Venom!” Robert Frost is unceremoniously pantsed: “I give my skinny prick / a shake, to ask if there is some mistake.” In a clever moment perhaps serving as Robbins’s ars poetica, Auden gets inverted: “Nothing makes poetry happen.” (Apr.)