Adam Peterson, coeditor of The Cupboard and author of My Untimely Death, visited Houston today. He flew into Houston this morning. He walked into my office around, like, 1:30pm or something. We talked about stuff. Then I went to teach my intro lit class, and he checked into his hotel room. Then we met up again after my class and drove to The Menil to look at art. Then we met Gene Morgan for burgers. Then we drove with Gene Morgan to Poison Girl for a few drinks and met up with Brian Rod of The Joanna Gallery. Then I drove Gene Morgan home, and then I dropped Adam Peterson off at his hotel, and I drove myself home.
This is a quick review of Adam Peterson’s chapbook My Untimely Death from Subito Press. Thank you for reading this post.
Adam Peterson’s My Untimely Death is a small, perfect-bound chapbook of 43 pages. The cover design is minimal, simple, and exciting: a block of something (lead?) crashes downward across the front page, smoke and fire billowing behind it, to strike Adam Peterson on the face, if he were standing just off the page.
The fifteen texts in the chapbook tell of various ways that the narrator has arrived at an untimely death: death by block of lead falling from the sky, death by long fall, death by bubble bath, death by malfunction, death by roo-roo.
Death by ex-lovers.
I read Adam Peterson’s chapbook very quickly. I read it in the bathroom, and then I read it in my bed. Adam Peterson’s chapbook is full of funny turns of phrase and odd, little punch lines that make you feel clever. As you read Adam Peterson’s writing, you might think how clever you are for following Adam Peterson’s writing. I mean this in a good, pleasant way. I felt very good, positive feelings as I read this chapbook, and I often giggled as I read it. Adam Peterson writes in a very playful, free and easy sort of language. The texts here are light, despite their being about untimely death, and for that I was strangely happy.
Take, for example, that first ‘poem’ at La Petite Zine. What I enjoyed about it as I read it was the way Adam Peterson has fun with the ‘human skin’ of the piece. It’s mentioned in the first line, then appears again in the phrase ‘the original blood and flesh version.’ I laughed when I read the next sentence: ‘They hit me in the stomach.’ What happy punishment! Then Adam Peterson twists that little punchline in a new direction. When the narrator asks if the guards have brought him flesh to write his choice of execution upon, they look confused instead of hitting him in the stomach as we might expect. They hand him a composition book through the bars. I’m imagining one of those marble notebooks. I can’t stop laughing at this.
Another funny piece in the chapbook is the one about land mines. Its first paragraph is this:
My untimely death comes from a misstep. My untimely death comes from a footfall. They taught us that land mines are everywhere and so it comes as no surprise when my boot finds one in the parking lot of the mall where I had come to browse racks of clothes, try on new boots, and demo a treadmill which they taught us is the only safe way to walk. My untimely death happens on a cloudy day without wind. I take small pleasure in lighting up the sky and blwoing leaves from the fake trees in the parking lot medians.
I really love that bit about how he’s gone to try on new boots.
Then the narrator defines a few terms for us.
Miniacal – Mad with the worry over the threat of land mines.
Misstep-child – One orphaned by land mines.
Church – Place where we are pretty sure there are no land mines.
God? – The answer to the question of who put land mines everywhere.
I like this bit a lot because of how the definitions sort of diminish in confidence. The first two definitions seem very official to me, but the next two are sort of hilarious for their use of ‘pretty sure’ and ‘everywhere.’ I feel like that adds to the humor of the piece, but I’m having trouble explaining why. In my head, I know that I think it’s clever and fun to read, but I’m not doing a good job explaining why. I’m sorry.
Anyhow, I really enjoyed reading this chapbook. Adam Peterson writes cleverly and with good humor. I think the fun surprises he creates are worth a look, and I recommend this chapbook.