by Adam Robinson
Awesome Machine/Publishing Genius Press, 2010
76 pages / $4 Buy from Publishing Genius
Adam Robinson is one of only four or five writers I know named Adam, but he’s the only one with the last name of Robinson. Adam Robinson runs a press named Publishing Genius (the only one named that) and I’m inclined to agree. Robinson has been publishing some pretty awesome writing for the last few years. I’ve seen him read a few times, and I have to say he’s one of the most entertaining readers named Adam I’ve seen. If he’d take his shirt off, he’d probably be in the top six.
A lot of people use words like “meta” when talking about writing, and it would certainly be appropriate when describing Robinson’s Say Poem, except I don’t like the word “meta.” “Meta” killed my father. It was during a hunting trip in New Jersey. “Meta” said it was an accident; he said he was aiming for a deer. My father looked nothing like a deer. For one thing, he was slightly taller and had fewer legs. For another, he was asleep in his bunk. So instead of using that word, I’ll use “George”, which was my father’s name, to describe Robinson’s collection. He would’ve liked that. The book is very George. Robinson is commenting on the difference between poetry on the page and poetry in the ear in a very George kind of way. The book is split into two sections, two long poems, really: “Say Poem” and “Say Joke”. The George-conceit of the first poem is that it is a text of Robinson performing several short poems. It includes often-very-George-commentary, light stage directions, banter Robinson would use, theoretically, between shorter poems within the longer section, either to add context to the poems themselves, or to keep the flow of the collection going. Robinson manages to do this without intruding on the poems too much. My father used to say that it’s not what you say it’s how you say it. He used to say that, but it’s been so long since I’ve heard it, I don’t even remember what his voice sounds like. Isn’t that sad? Some of Robinson’s poems are sad, too.
Many of the poems, themselves, are quite George. With titles like “Read Louder Slower” and various drafts of the same poem, Robinson keeps tongue planted firmly in cheek, which must make it difficult to understand what he is saying because it comes out kind of mumbley. Luckily, he manages to enunciate very well. He must be double-jointed or something.
The second section, “Say Joke”, shows Robinson embracing his George-conceit by deconstructing jokes. He’s morphed from a poet to a stand-up comedian. Because, of course, the whole point of a reading is to entertain, right? So why not just be a comedian? And this is the issue poets face when giving readings, after all: Do I read the work I’m really interested in right now, or do I read what the crowd will respond well to? My father was a big comedy fan. I remember, before he was murdered, how we’d sit in the converted garage and listen to Red Foxx, Bill Cosby, and Richard Pryor comedy albums. Mom didn’t like us doing that, because the language was often so coarse; I didn’t actually understand much of what was being said, truthfully, but just being there with Dad made it really special. After he was shot, Mom tried to throw out those old albums. We had a big fight about it when I caught her. She sent me to bed without supper and went and boxed them up herself – I could hear her crying while she did it – and left them on the curb for the garbage man. She came back inside and locked herself in the bathroom. I didn’t know what she was doing, then; I was only eight years old and didn’t know what drugs really even were. But I knew she’d be in there for a while. So I snuck out and found the box – there was all kind of great stuff – comedy albums, mostly, plus The Who: Live at Leeds, and Mountain: Flowers of Evil: maybe 50 albums, total. I went and hid them behind the house inside the pipe in this drainage ditch. Later, I snuck them upstairs and hid them all over the house, some in my room, some in the attic, some in the heating vents in the walls, just anywhere I could find a spot. Whenever I was home alone, I would sneak some out and listen to them. I still have most of them, even the ones that got warped. I listen to them sometimes, and I can almost remember the sound of his laugh.
My father would’ve really liked this book. Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to read it because he was murdered by “Meta” before the book was published. As I was reading it, I would take it to his grave and read parts of it aloud. Sometimes, there’d be a breeze at a certain part, which I think means Dad really liked that part.
I want to thank Adam Robinson for giving me the opportunity to remember my father and his legacy through these poems, even though the poems have nothing to do with any of that in any way. To be honest, I didn’t actually read most of the book. But what I did read was really good. I like the title a lot.
CL Bledsoe is the author of the young adult novel Sunlight; three poetry collections, _____(Want/Need), Anthem, and Leap Year; and a short story collection called Naming the Animals. A poetry chapbook, Goodbye to Noise, is available online at www.righthandpointing.com/bledsoe. Another, The Man Who Killed Himself in My Bathroom, is available at http://tenpagespress.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/the-man-who-killed-himself-in-my-bathroom-by-cl-bledsoe/. His story, “Leaving the Garden,” was selected as a Notable Story of 2008 for Story South’s Million Writer’s Award. His story “The Scream” was selected as a Notable Story of 2011. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize 5 times. He blogs at Murder Your Darlings, http://clbledsoe.blogspot.com Bledsoe has written reviews for The Hollins Critic, The Arkansas Review, American Book Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Pedestal Magazine, and elsewhere. Bledsoe lives with his wife and daughter in Maryland.