Poetry … what?
Title: Alien vs. Predator
Author/Poet: Michael Robbins
Publisher: Penguin Books
Page #: 88
I have never been the largest fan of poetry. As part of my major it is requisite that I be exposed to some poetry, in fact at my school all English majors are pre-enrolled in “Introduction to Poetry” their first semester here. I also have the requisite Shel Silverstein anthologies on my book cases at home from my childhood readings, as well as some Poe, and Dickens, and Frost, but this is the first contemporary adult poetry anthology I was not only enthralled with enough to purchase having read only a handful of poems in my “Approaches to Literary Studies” class last spring, but also the only piece of literature that isn’t a novel I read last year. I don’t count the mounds of essays and textbooks I wade through for my second major in this number because they are boring and why would I want to talk about them. (That’s a lie they are very interesting but have no place here none the less)
Michael Robbins style, I would describe as writing a poem and then taking every single line of the poem and replacing it with either a cliche idiom or pop culture reference that he tweaks slightly to fit his poem’s theme. I could not get through a single poem without googling something. I had one of his poems on my midterm exam for the aforementioned class and without google I was only able to call attention to his reworking of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and a famous line from Frost poem. You need google to first identify all of the things he is referencing and then you need to figure out what he changed, and why he changed it.
It is an incredibly tedious and daunting task but it was extremely interesting to me. I feel like most of the more modern poetry I have read is a sort of free verse almost prosaic in style and meant to be very flowery … or in the case of teenage writing which I read a fair amount of, morbid and depressing in nature. This was the first time that I saw a poem completely constructed out of references, and while it will eventually require a footnote that takes up three quarters of the page, I think that it is worth the effort. The moment when you have everything tied down and you figure out this puzzle box disguised as a poem there is such a thrill (unless you don’t get a thrill out of literature … in which case what are you doing here?)
Overall I really enjoyed not only the flow of his style because lyrically it is still beautiful, or jarring depending on the poem, but Robbins’ interesting take on poetry. If you haven’t had a chance to read one of his poems yet, I would suggest you give it a try, because it is worth the experience.