Proving Nothing to Anyone
by Matt Cook
Publishing Genius Press, July 2013
86 pages / $13.95 Buy from Publishing Genius
Matt Cook’s newest collection of poetry opens with a telephone call: “The dry cleaner calls up and says he’s taking responsibility for my pants.” This line comes across as particularly mundane, even unpoetic, but starting a poem like you’d start a conversation has a long literary history. Back in 1959 Frank O’Hara wrote a whole manifesto about writing poetry this way. Of course, O’Hara was not entirely serious when he wrote “Personism: A Manifesto,” but the concept of directly placing the poem “Lucky Pierre style” between the poet and the reader has had a lasting impression on American poetics and Matt Cook’s Proving Nothing to Anyone reflects this pedigree.
Much like the poetry of Frank O’Hara, the poetry in Matt Cook’s Proving Nothing to Anyone has an air of artlessness to it, but this is a carefully calculated and constructed facade. Frank O’Hara’s work, especially poems like ”The Day Lady Died” are line after line of the banal, which abruptly shifts to the significant, creating a sense of the poetic sublime. The best of Cook’s poems are doing a similar thing. Take Cook’s “The Emotional Center” as an example. It starts off with the lines “Don’t mess with me right now, I’m all stirred up with emotion, man. / I’m in a rage right now because I can’t find my car keys” and continues to describe all the annoyances of life which are piling upon the speaker of the poem. The poem ends with this great description of anxiety:
And you’ve got all these emotional condiments,
And you take one bite and all this emotion oozes everywhere,
And you’ve got emotion running down your chin and your arm. …
Even though the words seem off the cuff, the perceptiveness of the lines really strikes the reader. The poetry in this collection reads as if Cook is on the other end of the telephone, or Gchat, or whatever popular means of communication is the equivalent of Frank O’Hara’s telephone analogy, and what Matt Cook has to say is really deep just as all 2 AM conversations have some element of deep importance beneath all the talk of bars and television.
July 5th, 2013 / 11:00 am
I just moved to Oakland, CA from Brooklyn, NY. I’m unemployed, so I’m reading more books than usual. And growing a beard. Here are some of the books surrounding me and some thoughts about them and a pic of my beard.
Usually when someone says a book of poems is “weird” it means the poems are ephemerally weird. Like the weirdness is a novelty to grab attention. Real weirdness permeates content and form, like it does in Ish’s book. The sentences and lines are like little adjustments to the readers attention. It feels like your being nudged into an ultimately more complex and valenced sensitivity of your self and the world.
sample lines: Yes, yes larval. / Larvelous was the eye—the stars, / they were wondering, “When is X coming out?” / Considering the material, X will be something!”
Sometimes when I read sonnets all I can think is “fuck sonnets”. I’m pretty sure Nick Demske thinks this too, which is why he wrote a book of sonnets. Feels like this book was written by your drug dealer friend in high school who was smarter and better read than everyone in your class, but was destined to burn out and spend the rest of his life as a low-level bureaucrat in the same town you grew up in. Poems feel like they are “in your face”. Some lines break in the middle of words in a way that is perturbing/engaging. Funny letter of congratulations on the back from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), better than any blurb.
sample lines: Unsanitized hypodermia. Full dorsal poetry. Homos say / What. Say what? Say when. I’m going to buttfuck / You in the mouth. I know where you live.
July 1st, 2011 / 2:12 am