Nagin’s verse is a torrent, and readers will thrill as it carries them off.
This poetry collection—which tackles themes of art, authenticity, and desire—is as energetic as it is infectious. The author tackles many themes but seems especially concerned with craft—poetry about the struggle to write great poetry. The best adjective for describing his most effective verse is “breathless,” and it often seems that Nagin is so possessed by his subject that his words pour out: “The wounds leak out my chest like sparrows / like cantankerous verbiage like masks at a / carnival like the time I lost my keys like margins / of error like you looking like an emu solving a / rubix cube like mysticism at the birthplace / of eternity.” The “leak” in the first line quickly becomes a rush, and soon enough we’re not reading Nagin’s words, we’re riding them. Such passages recall the early work of the Beats; Kerouac and Ginsberg also understood poetry as effusion, and Nagin seems to have learned much from these countercultural icons. This author is no one-trick pony, however, and his other pieces are sparer, more condensed. The middle of “Poems from the Head” is a thin string of fragments: “Poems from the gut / new endeavors / Poems that strut / magical stew. / Poems defy / swirling black rivers / desperately / desperately / carrying through.” The lines here are so fleeting that we almost miss the touching rhyme of “stew” and “through.” This is the poet writing in the gnomic mode, but the fact that Nagin can work so persuasively in both registers is a testament to his estimable skill.
Powerful verse from a writer of real talent.