New Haven Review on Matthew Dickman


Fortunately, I was able to review Matthew Dickman’s All-American Poem for the New Haven Review. I say “fortunately,” because poetry is so rarely reviewed — and because Dickman’s poetry is such a pleasure to read. Please if you can, check out this volume. Matthew and his brother Michael should be celebrated as poets of the present and future, not the past.

I first encountered Matthew Dickman’s “Trouble” in a recent issue of The New Yorker. It’s a litany of the many ways famous people killed themselves. Marilyn Monroe took sleeping pills. Marlon Brando’s daughter hanged herself. Bing Crosby’s sons “shot themselves out of the music industry forever.” The list’s utilitarian feeling only makes the horror more horrible, especially when it includes the suicide of Dickman’s brother: He “opened thirteen Fentanyl patches,” Dickman tells us, “and stuck them on his body until it wasn’t his body anymore.”

But there’s a sense of humor too, even whiffs of whimsy, which make the tenor of All-American Poem, in which “Trouble” appears, feel genuine without being sappy. The poems are lucid and coy, rambling and drunk, playful and gregarious, a tapestry of emotion with a notable thread missing: There’s little in the way of satire or irony, by which I mean meanness of spirit. Written amid the anxieties and neuroses of the Bush era, Dickman’s poems are conspicuous for their lack of bitterness. After learning about his brother’s fate, we learn: “I sometimes wonder about the inner lives of polar bears.”

How random. How charming. And how frightening, too. …

Full review

January 26, 2009 12:39 PM | | Comments (0)


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This page contains a single entry by FlyOver published on January 26, 2009 12:39 PM.

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