POETRY REVIEW: I’m Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe by Kyle Flak
Look at that title up there. Should Mr. Flak have included the word “whole” and the word “entire”? The academy, by way of Coleridge, would say no.
Mr. Flak knows how to not give a shit correctly. Poem after poem he deflates the very beach ball he’s trying to sell you. He apologizes again and again, “I’m sorry if this book / turns out to be really terrible.” That’s on page 3. On every other page he gives you an out. He’s practically begging you to leave. It’s sour milk he insists you taste, and you not only taste it, you turn the page for more. He’s a master of using self-deprecation, inane pop culture references, and surface level dalliance to ultimately project a magnetic persona and poetic confidence.
Coleridge said, “Poetry is the best word in the best order.” Half of Mr. Flak’s words are verbal tic. The other half is humble, sometimes disorienting tonal persona. This book’s gender is “Jane Seymour’s character in Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.” And I can say, miraculously, like a wild hair up your friend’s brother’s butt, this collection’s a good time.
Flak’s persona is at once aroused by a yellow dress, and taunted by nostalgia for the present moment. The Buddha said to forget the past, while Flak attaches the past to the present. Flak’s persona is like a Holden Caulfield who’s been smoking dope and putting a red bandanna over the lamp and everything’s all loopy and introspective, anaphora and subclause, all building to the final “aha!” Literally the poem about the yellow dress ends with “aha!”
Flak’s speaker says trees are hugging him when he slips on the icy sidewalk and crashes into them. He rambles from one topic to the next, feeling sorry for the dead trees he’s writing on. He jumps from 1040a tax forms to some dude whose dad owns a vinegar, mustard and ketchup business to Zorro. Like J.D. Salinger, Flak enjoys a good digression. Often Flak digresses, in an endearing way, into self deprecation. Once you start, you’ve got to keep reading to keep the bully Kyle Flak from beating up on the poet Kyle Flak.
Flak makes far too much stupid sense to be language poetry, and he talks about too much stupid stuff, in too casual a way, to ever be “literature”, yet here we are. I wonder if Gold Wake Press let this book run around unleashed in its backyard. How long did they shout “literature” before it came? I’d guess several times, over many weeks. I know for sure when they called it “historically relevant”, it dug a hole under the fence and ran away. I commend Gold Wake for the aesthetic success of this collection and for immortalizing such a bizarre persona that goes against academic common sense.
Folk poet Johnny Huerta predicted this collection of poems would soon accrue a cult following. It’s a cult of inane pop culture digressions like name dropping Hanging with Mr. Cooper and then dropping dope lines like, “The midnight grass / Will never know so many soft and splendid footsteps / Again.” Wow, look at this guy, reading grass’s mind!
There are moments in this collection that don’t seem literary at all, or even useful. For example, “warehouse type of buildings”, “frankly at all possible / Is just / Basically /,” “investment deally thing”, or my favorite, “sure make sure”. The academy, as a general rule, frowns upon phrases like “sure make sure”. And that’s one of the things I find remarkable and endearing about this voice.
Flak is not like John Ashbury, dressing inaccessible passages with common language so they’ll look accessible. Flak unpacks himself at every line, it’s just the unpacking involves all this weird stuff spread out on your counter and you’re thinking about Eddie Murphy and chlamydia and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Billy Corgan and like it or not, you’ve just been Flak-ed. He’ll be wasting words left and right, and then he’ll drop something crystal clear yet unlike crystal it doesn’t break when it hits the wall.
Don’t take my advice. And don’t take Flak’s advice, whatever you do. Everybody that talks about this book, and even the book itself, says STAY AWAY. Don’t you dare join the cult of I Am Sorry For Everything In The Whole Entire Universe.
Visit Gold Wake Press, buy Flak’s book because you can’t help it and read the grand first poem of his collection.
Las Cruces, NM