Monday, January 24, 2011

My mini-review of Nick Demske by Nick Demske is up on Like Fire (one of the Open Letters blogs); thanks to Lisa Peet for posting it and Nick Demske for writing the book. Here's an excerpt:
Demske’s cadences and rhymes often read like good rap, even when they’re not directly referencing it (as in “My Name Is” and “Pop Sonnet”). The constant third-person self-references, too, are hip-hop-esque (“Remind me what it’s like to be offended, Nick Demske”), but also ghazal-like—this book is never more ridiculous than it is serious, and for every knee-jerk sex joke there’s a flash of brilliance. The last poem, “Fully Dressed in an Empty Bathtub,” especially hints at the very real pain this art was born of: “I could’ve killed // Myself that night, but instead I plucked these shards from my flesh, licked / The lacerations. Fashioned this glowing mosaic.” Nick Demske is a fearless debut, razor-sharp and full of hooks.


  1. Interesting! I've always associated the rhymed, wildly unmetrical sonnet with Paul Muldoon and often wondered why it isn't a more widely used form. One thing I couldn't quite gather from your review: how much of the book is neither scatological nor "yea I saith"?

  2. Almost every poem has some, er, inappropriate language ... but most aren't all "yea I saith." The language is mostly pretty casual but amped up the way rap lyrics are amped up. Very "dynamic."

  3. Thanks, that's very helpful! "Amped up"/"dynamic" sounds exactly the sort of thing I'd dislike. It's kind of extraordinary how much information those words convey.

  4. Really?! Have you read any of the poets I compared him to?

  5. I've read a few poems of KSM's in magazines -- not sure where exactly. I just went back and read his "Poems about trees." It's pretty funny... but I'm not sure I'd want to read a book of that.

  6. Demske isn't flarf -- but KSM's sonnets that are anagrams of Shakespeare's are in a similar vein, in terms of playing with form.

  7. I haven't seen KSM's Shakespeare anagram work; where can one find it? I'm deeply interested in messing-with-Shakespeare's-sonnets as a genre; some years ago I experimented with making sonnets entirely out of first lines of Shakespeare's sonnets...

  8. Here are some:

  9. I rather enjoyed this one:

    My, You Annoy Me, Funny Daddy Roy: Yes, You of Uneasy Eye (Eye of Yore)

    Wise fools who rub the curly heads of state,
    Sweet monsters who sell honor out for fun:
    Now by my learned counsel be set straight,
    And board a flying saucer for the sun.

    Lifesaver, doughnut, onion ring, or halo;
    Lacuna, vacuum, emptiness, or hole—
    The UFOs in Limbo hover way low;
    In Purgatory, langue’s denied parole.

    I know a word the OED omits:
    Its syllables are fatal to be heard.
    Whoever says it retches, dies, and shits;
    I urge you not to utter such a word.

    Although you feel the author’s days are through,
    The author in the end erases you.

  10. elisa,

    thanks so much for this! I'll try to spread the review around. I really appreciate it. And, as far as KSM's sonnagrams go, I actually published some of them in a journal I try to help run. they're so great. here they are:

    Sarang, I really dig your hesitations. while i think elisa calling my stuff amped up and dynamic is probably right on point, i'm nonetheless really resistant to it (meaning resistant to other poets with work like that as well as resistant to describing my own work that way, though it'd probably be more honest to do so). If you'd be willing, I encourage you to contact Fence to get a copy to review and, if you hate it, review it saying so. There have been no hyper critical reviews of it so far (I've got my fingers crossed for whatever my buddy Michael Robbins writes on it) and, honestly, I would be kind of interested in reading one. Of course, if you read it and love it, I'd be happy to hear that, too.

    either way, thanks a lot both of you and keep in touch:

  11. Nick: I suspect I was overreading "amped up/dynamic" -- I did like the quoted bits (the e.g.'s?) in EG's review. I _will_ read the book, though I'm unlikely to review it as that would be too much like work. Thanks for the further KSM links!

  12. cool either way. and thanks.