Mayakovsky’s Revolver

Matthew Dickman, Author
Matthew Dickman. Norton, $25.95 (112p) ISBN 978-0-393-08119-0
Open Ebook - 112 pages - 978-0-393-08952-3
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-393-34879-8
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The central sequence of Dickman’s raw, frightening, well-told second collection commemorates his deceased brother, remembering their shared delinquent years, their attraction to drink and prescription drugs, and the severe mental illness that disfigured his brother’s adulthood. Around that 13-section elegy Dickman arranges other recollections of youth, lust, and strife, “my teenage mystery and finger, my skateboard and Circle Jerks album,/ all those ghosts like birds-of-paradise/ being lifted out of the dark.” Death is for Dickman’s late brother “your little love, your hot nipple-action/ of fear, a train/ in the dark before it breaks,” while the tranquilizer Halcion once seemed to the poet a necessity of life: “I can feel you melt on my tongue like a naked girl wearing a diamond/ crown, standing barefoot on a bed of ice.” Dickman’s jagged lines connect his own and his family’s self-destructive impulses to the Russian modernism of Vladimir Mayakovsky, who shot himself, and to other eminent modernists. Do not confuse the deceased brother, never named here, with Matthew’s twin Michael, also an eminent poet. Even jaded readers could be won over by the last, longest poem, in which Dickman pivots to the present, listing persuasive reasons to live. (Oct.)
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