Conrad, poems by Michael Gushue. Washington, DC: Souvenir Spoon Books, 2010. $10.
I'm a big fan of Michael Gushue's work. His poetry taps into the zeitgeist of educated, middle-class America struggling to live a moral life without starving to death or ending up on the business end of a castle-storming. Stylistically, I'd call him a kind of a post-New York School, mostly confessional poet with the odd narrative. And he's damned funny. Gushue's poetry is for an intelligent, savvy audience without being smug or condescending. Did I mention that he's just a damned good poet?
Conrad is a themed collection, a character study of a man living a cubicle life, a man breaking beneath the pillowed spokes of the world. In this series of mostly brief snapshots, Gushue modernizes the Kafka mystique. The collection begins with “At Work”
Conrad sits at his desk, fluoresced
by routine, the arthritis
of organization. His annual
evaluation is a pineapple bomb,
Let’s talk about language. Gushue’s collection is full of clever turns of phrase, brilliant descriptions of Conrad’s pathos. In “At Home,” he describes Conrad’s consumerism as “…the small beer/of American idolatry.” In “His Adventure,” Gushue tells us:
Conrad arrives at the Center of the Earth.
Sorry, no room.
I don’t want to give away all of Gushue’s punchlines, but there are many. What makes Gushue so enjoyable is that he isn’t simply poking fun at Conrad, the un-self-realized Loser, but rather he presents Conrad as an Everyman. We’re all idiots sometimes, let’s be honest. We all wish we were a little more self-aware, or rather, we’re all so fucking self-aware that it makes us sick, and yet we rarely live up to that awareness.
I’ve been a big fan of Gushue for a few years, now. He’s got a new collection coming out any day now, and I can’t wait to get a hold of it. I have no idea why he isn't the most famous poet in the world. Maybe he's just too good.