Full disclosure statement: Justin Marks is my friend and editor, but don't let that discourage you; I have a habit of hobnobbing with America's best and brightest. If you buy the very attractive handmade chapbook from Poor Claudia, you'll also get, as a bonus, the other half of it: Digital Macramé by the amazing Paige Taggart. Someday I'll write about the awesome meta-move she pulls off in a poem called ">> >> >>"
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Micro-pseudo-review of On Happier Lawns by Justin Marks
There's a kind of poetry I think of as "man poetry," which is not to say that all men write it or only men write it. "Man poetry" is a string of "I did this," "I thought this," "I felt this" statements, very matter-of-fact and declarative. Often done, rarely done well. On Happier Lawns by Justin Marks is in some ways a variation on this genre, but deeply interior and impressionistic, quiet but not abstract: the running inner monologue of an American man full of self-love and self-loathing. The poems are atypical of the genre in that they're built of phrases rather than sentences, little chunks of language like clouds passing by, some images, some ideas. Like Nick Demske, the book is made of broken sonnets, in the sense that each poem contains 14 lines. In every other respect, they create and adhere to their own form. Marks writes lines that resonate and stick with me for years, occasionally returning to me, surfacing like a thought bubble: "I saw a femur once" ... "The heart, a stencil" ... "The body, a footnote" ... "You're going to miss me when you're bored." These poems make me laugh and at the same time induce pangs of vague nostalgia ("Something making me sad / but I don't know what"), one of my favorite things that poetry (or any art) can do.