25 Points: Eyelid Lick

eyelidlickcoverfinalFRONTEyelid Lick
by Donald Dunbar
Fence Books, 2012
88 pages / $15.95 buy from Fence Books







1. The Table(s) of Contents might be my favorite part. Or maybe it’s the few pages after the Table(s) of Contents, the part where you realize that formally, Eyelid Lick is fucking everything else up.

2. Formally, I can only compare Eyelid Lick to A New Quarantine Will Take My Place. There aren’t “poems” and it doesn’t really have sections. There are regions of the book that are three to four pages long and that are like themselves, and not really like the rest of the book, but still more like the rest of the book, than writing that is in any other book.

3. Tonally, Eyelid Lick is all over the place. It can be funny or sad or violent or sincere or religious or irreligious, but it’s always dancing on emotions, linguistically and sonically engaging, and beautiful.

4. If the book has an analogue to doing drugs, it would alternate a different drug every 4-6 hours for 2-3 days in a row. In some respects this is exhausting, but at the same time, a really exciting and unique vacation from Contemporary American Poetry.


And in case I die, I paid one point two million

for this mausoleum, and you’re telling me
it’s only partially real? I paid a cool four

million for this airplane and you’re telling me
it’s an angel? I spent a week’s worth of food stamps

on a week’s worth of food and here we are:
shot to death in an electronics store? Smeared across

some new Iraqi highway? On the porch, electric green
from the reflected plants, imagining the blood clot

that stops the brain?

6. In real life, Donald Dunbar is one of the most generous and beautiful people that I know. He regularly cooks meals for friends. I have slept on his couch. I know lots of people who’ve slept on his couch. He would probably let me move in and build a blanketfort in his living room if I needed a place to live bad enough.

7. I want to say that maybe the exhaustion I felt when reading the book might translate into tedium for some people. Some people might also think that sleeping on someone’s couch is undignified and that no one over the age of 8 should have a blanketfort in the living room. But fuck those people. This book is for drinking three more PBRs, smoking a bowl, and waking up on a couch or in a blanketfort. This is not the kind of poetry that encourages taking a cab home early.

8. There’s something vital about Eyelid Lick and the way the book seems to want to be read wildly and to the point of exhaustion.


America, mute informant,
pulse of the goat, America,

the slowest surgery,
the flowering land of God,

I eat all your words
and turn your children into knives.

10. One of my favorite conversations that I’ve had with Donald Dunbar includes this bit of dialogue:

“Outside of Brooklyn, nobody fucks with poetry from Portland.”

“What about San Francisco?”

“Ok, yeah. San Francisco can fuck us, but only in our pee-holes.”

11. I think poetry is at its best when it’s exhausting and indescribable in this way; poetry that is difficult to describe in the way a night is only truly forgettable if you black out or die in the middle of it.


…I enter the rainforest taking only knife, rope, canteen, and iodine.
Trees of every size with leaves of every shape slide and sift around me,
perfect butterflies soda around me
all around here.
Now, when one is in a survival-type situation, one is probably going to die.
It’s important before entering a survival-type situation for one to ensure the life you have lived to be satisfactory.
It’s important to put your affairs in order.
Call your loved ones before you, look them each in the eye, and die.
As you die, your soul will scatter from your mouth like confetti.
The confetti should hover there, two, three seconds long.
It would be nice if the confetti would subdivide into hundreds of small, bulbous confetti eggs.
And if each egg would then pop, and then confess a rain of confetti all its own, like signals igniting the bush of undiscovered neurons.
So at this point, if there are hundreds of thousands of small confetti explosions, and you didn’t have a chance for any last words,

any last words?

It would be nice for your loved ones to find the letters you wrote them.
If these are just under your pillow, they will find them when they move your body.
It would be nice for this to be especially convenient.

13. “HG: Do you think you’d ever want to be the US poet laureate?
DD: Of course. Free money, a big megaphone, the chance to be the first USPoLau assassinated with a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone.”

14. Whitman’s “I am large, I contain multitudes.” rings a bell.

15. I was sitting with a former professor and an amazing poet at a coffee shop and showed her Eyelid Lick and tried to explain it to her. She flipped through it and said, “Oh, it’s… a novel.”

16. Yes, Eyelid Lick is a novel.

17. If you’re a poet and you don’t want to be assassinated by a Drone for your poetry, what’s the point?

18. The poetry contained in Eyelid Lick feels like it somehow evades the ego and speaks straight from the id. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of posturing or gesturing, it doesn’t ever feel like a play. This isn’t theatre, it’s the id running wild across the page.

19. In the way that this is a vacation and it is the id, it reminds me of Spring Breakers. Though, there isn’t a narrative, there is no building a character, there is still that liquid feeling that you get when you watch Spring Breakers.

20. Language is mind control. We don’t get the choice to hear what we want to—if someone’s talking, our brain is processing it—and by reading a thing we’re surrendering our mind to the system of meaning the author has arranged.


When I imagine other people learning
I imagine them learning to be more
Like me

22. If you’re a poet and you don’t believe in the mind control that your words can have, what’s the point?

23. I want my book to be a Pokemon or a secret lover or a cyanide pill.

24. I’m not sure if a drug vacation or a wild escape of the id or mind control or a Pokemon is political. I’m not sure if breaking conventions of the Contemporary American Poetry book is radical. I do know that this book doesn’t want to fit on a shelf in a library in a proper Library Of Congress location. Eyelid Lick doesn’t want to be categorized. It wants to break things. Eyelid Lick wants to fuck you in your pee-hole.

The amazing thing is that Eyelid Lick does this in a sincere, generous, and loving way; you will fall in love with the language in this book as it controls your mind, and fucks you.

25. If I had a Drone, I’d kill you, Donald Dunbar, just to make your dreams come true.

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  1. columbusmatt

      Really enjoyed this, Robert. The book sound very enticing.

  2. Derrick

      great review of a worthy book