Baby Hedgehogs and American Apparel Dogs by David Fishkind is self-described as an “epic poetic narrative,” which is what it is — if one considers one’s life since conception (“I was nothing and then I was two and then I was one”) to the present to be “epic,” a word hopefully employed by the 19 year old with a little sarcasm. It’s easily readable and generous in its candidness. There is a trend of hyper-aware self-conscious writing among younger (I use this word as a description of age, not qualifier) writers which is either the last course of irony, or its propagation. There is a difference between the self-consciousness behind, say, Notes from the Underground and Fishkind’s, the former being a philosophical device, the latter more of a collection of tweets. I don’t say this in derision, only to suggest that our recent technologies (iPhone, myspace, youtube, etc.) have altered our orientation with “the self.” But that’s okay. Fishkind describes autobiographical prosaic experiences (getting erections, going to museums, being in love) with refreshing stoicism met with thoughtfulness:
I become a caricature of myself,
Smiling viciously at something that has not happened yet,
We hold one another in your car and your brother tells you he
When I think about the projection of the future I see the past
When I think about the projection of the past I see a tall black
man punching someone I know in the back of the head.
I asked my mother for the keys to the car and I walked around.
One time I sped so much that I thought I would crash into the
I threw an orange at a wall and it went through the wall and I
The question, one might ask, is what makes autobiographical prose a poem? If writing is from the “self,” is not all writing — however veiled in aesthetic fancies and humanist intent — simply egocentric? Fishkind, inadvertently or not, may have addressed this by a single line snuggled by parentheses: “(Don’t achieve illusion),” a line which struck me as a recipe for how he writes: unabashed realism of the absurd contemporary experience, where everything — iPhones, Jesus, Adam Sandler, Arizona — is thrown in the whirlpool of potential meaning (think Warhol, whose name is still creeping around somehow). Fishkind does not edit what makes it into the poem, because, I think, he did not edit it into his life. There is no illusion rendered, for [his] life itself, however meaningless and often depressing, is texture enough. This faith in the “stupid,” is, well, smart.
It is self-published, a career “no-no” admirable in its humility — a key word for Fishkind, for his life, nor the verse which renders it, is really meant to be impressive. Here is a dude who wrote an honest chapbook which, if you’re down with that, as I am, you can read and enjoy. Support young writers, as their feelings are our feelings: old feelings going strong.
Tags: David Fishkind