This illustrated volume of verse addresses a variety of topics in sometimes humorous, sometimes serious ways.
The title of Markert’s (The Paranormal Citizen, 2016) book, his use of rhyme, the oversize format, and the cartoony illustration style make it seem meant for children. Many verses treat childhood concerns, such as monsters in the closet (“My Night-Light”), teasing classmates (“Perspective”), pizza (“The Pizza Toad”), and more. Done well, such poems can charm, but the author’s rhymes rarely surprise, his meter wanders, and his humor often falls flat: “Dogs eat cats / Cats eat mice / Mice eat cheese / And Mr. Cheese eats lice!” Amid the light verse are more adult pieces like “The Streets of Destruction”: “I walked the streets of destruction, fueled by instincts and fear….I saw the crack houses and the pimps and the horny whores.” This has a Ginsberg-ian quality, but a clumsy insistence on rhyme reduces its authenticity: “A woman was harassed—it wasn’t fair—over her last quarter she refused to share.” And a more discerning author would have asked if prostitutes are best described as “horny.” One promising piece is “Norco Blues,” which delivers strong opening lines: “I am writing this poem in a car while it rains / And my best friend is in the back seat / And she is in pain.” A blueslike riff follows. While the collection reveals a concern for serious matters, this is sometimes undercut by pieces that feel juvenile or naïve, even pompous, like the commentaries accompanying many verses or such statements as “I write this introduction in preparation for the worldwide release of these poems.” The apparently digital illustrations vary. Proulx (Mommy Read With Me, 2019, etc.), who contributes most of the pictures, employs a flat, clumsy cartoonish style that occasionally features odd choices, such as depicting the scared narrator of “My Night-Light” as an adult man with a heavy beard. Debut illustrator Huffman’s work has a more original and graphic quality. Debut illustrator Tun’s few images are well composed.
While it offers some promising poems and arresting images, this collection lacks a strong focus.