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News Of The Haircut by Peter Bergoef

tumblr_mqix14iefz1qhn45lo1_500News Of The Haircut
by Peter Bergoef
Greying Ghost Press, Originally published 2007 / Republished 2013 as part of Greying Ghost Archive Series (#1)
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News of the Haircut is a chapbook by writer Peter Bergoef, published by Greying Ghost Press, as part of their Archive series. First published in 2007, this chapbook seems to touch on themes, such as love, loss, sadness, and the all too common feelings that are often described as an existential crisis, explored via a vague narrator like approach, giving the poems a somewhat personal feeling to them. These poems, which appear abstract at first, give the reader a series of images within images, presenting a version of themselves within the pages that one all too often tries to ignore.

handcuffed to the chair
other victims running their mouths
transmitting maths
through satellites
news of the haircut
the impending registration
over a few drinks served

What I notice here is an idea of a shared helplessness, which is shared through our connection and inhabitance of the internet. Transmitting maths through satellites, victims running their mouths, and being handcuffed to the chair, all give one the image of people who both need the internet, whether they want to admit it or not, and are afraid of their reliance on the internet. This seems to be a common theme among writers who interact with the online world, like Heiko Julien, Megan Boyle, or Tao Lin, writers who have become identified through the internet, and have also talked about loneliness and isolation through this medium. These writers seem to all depend on, and are sometimes repulsed by, the life led online, which reveals itself through their writing through the use of concrete and stark imagery. I think this is, in a way, become a reimagining of what existentialism posits, that life is absurd and meaningless, and that the only way for one to ‘break free’ from this crisis is to accept that life is absurd. So possibly, the contradiction of living ‘irl’ online is the absurdity that these writers are trying to accept.

what the straightjacket
and forceps have in common
 
so much cream colored wallpaper
so many dull rooms

Here he uses the images of birth, and the image of a straightjacket, implying being locked away in an asylum of sorts, to create an interesting juxtaposition between what “normal” is, and how one persons normal can be another’s “crazy.” The use of all lower caps is interesting as well, as it gives the poems a passive voice, sharing with the reader a feeling of hopelessness that comes from the non direct quality of the lines. In effect, the messages are both passive and active in the way they are structured and interpreted, which I find very interesting in all of the pieces.

Bergoef’s central theme, however, seems to be one of helplessness, or loneliness, and is again shown in the poem Awake. The use of short, simple lines, combined again with the lack of capitalization, combines to create an image that I can only describe as being “depressing,” but still not an unknowable image.

bed stuck to skin
shallow breath
through a dim room
what was destroyed during sleep
now waits in the corner
forget dreams
eat cereal cold
take in coffee hot
souring the mouth

In this poem, I feel like the narrator has become almost machine-like in repetition. Sleep appears to be the only way the narrator can escape the monotony of the “chair,” but they know that when they wake up it’s there, waiting for them as always. The line “take in coffee hot” is also interesting, as it feels completely inhuman, and inorganic, which exemplifies the notion of machine like repetition. So what is interesting to not is here again the use of juxtaposition; normal and not normal, real and unreal, online and offline. What I love with the use of juxtaposition is the images Bergeof has created between the lines, which makes me think that although life can be seen in a binary sense, much like online, that real life is not so binary, as we can see from reading the poems.

This chapbook seem to represent the cognitive dissonance created when one tries to live both online and “irl,” without addressing the obvious differences between the two. I feel that these poems also represent the isolation felt through engaging in a “virtual” community. In engaging the world via the internet, one is able to easily find like minded people and feel part of a whole, but in these poems, it appears that this has caused a reliance on the machine to the point that the human is becoming machine like in their daily lives.

I have said this before, but I feel like a lot of emerging writers seem to be addressing a lot of common themes; anxiety, depression, isolation, and identity. And, as I have said before, I feel like these problems have been exacerbated by the incredible growth of the internet, so fast in fact that we haven’t had the time to catch up to it yet. I feel Bergeof’s poems address the personal problems of the connected disconnection felt with inhabiting the online environment; we all want to be a part of the community, but the community can make us feel trapped, confused, and alienated as well, and I like that his poems make me feel that way.

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Rhys Nixon is a writer who lives in Australia. He has been published in electric cereal, Gesture magazine, and posts occasionally on his blog, rhysrhys.tumblr.com.

 

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