reviewed by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Brolaski has a strong musical ear, and the poems in this collection feature various rhythmic voices, blending the idiomatic expressions of text messages with the tropes of both rap and Chaucer while addressing the subjects of gender and race. At times the poems read like manifestos, fueled by a robust gusto, but nothing too certain is manifest. Brolaski excels at the sensual: “Suddenly you and your neighbors thighs are pressed together, accidental camaraderie or blunt eroticism. And neither of you move away.” There are many references to popular culture, as in “Melancholy Lake,” a dream poem featuring Brad Pitt, as well as one poem that includes a Hank Williams lyric and another a quote from the Wu-Tang Clan. Brolaski questions human nature and evolution, specifically in poems such as “Against Breeding,” which takes a strong stance in stating “…humans should not continue ourselves / it can only come a frightful cropper.” In the final poem, the speaker tells us that “to write my poem about being a mongrel” it’s required to “jettison my former ire n any gesture toward abstraction.” The tragic 2016 nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, is referenced, and the poem returns to the subject of being a “mongrel, mestiza, mixedbreed,” singing itself out in a mantra-like, Ginsberg fashion by concluding “what is love / but a constellation of significances / lyke-like magic / los cavecs nos aüra as the owl augurs / one gapes at a painting / the other waits for mahana.”
This review originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2017.