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