God, Grace, Dumb Luck by Phloyd Knucklez

God, Grace, Dumb Luck

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This debut collection of poems, prose poems, and very short stories captures the worldview of a disappointed man.

With some exceptions, the narrators of these pieces are men, generally in their 40s, unemployed or with a menial job; as adolescents, they got sent to military or Roman Catholic schools. They drink too much; romance eludes them; and they take antidepressants. In “Part Of The Unraveling Process,” the poem that opens this collection, the speaker sets this book’s prevailing mood: “What I have to say isn’t / all that interesting…. // I realize I’m not the most charismatic guy in the world.” This is a harsh realization for a writer who wants his work to be read, or for anyone who might want engagement with society, but the narrator finds a twisted silver lining: “For instance, nobody will ever look at me and call me a leader. / Or yearn for any of my belongings. / Or fantasize about what kind of lover I’d be.” The narrators usually have some self-awareness, but actively deny the use of insight: “Call me what you will. I don’t give a damn. What the fuck difference does it make?” Bitterness is the usual conclusion, as with “As Vague As He Is Flawed.” Here, a Failed Poet bemoans how he’s trapped between zombifying medication and his “anger and despair and irritation and sadness.” Even aided by his Encouraging Soul, the poet finally can only come back to “the biggest myth in the history of myths,” that if you’re hurt, someone will help you. Knucklez’s style is generally straightforward, although “Rewriting The Myth” has a livelier, spoken-word feel; for example, the president is “awaiting his tribunal, his escape hatch, his flask, his gasmask of red death, so he can stay on task.” Many readers can likely relate to the futilities and humiliations that the author describes with such vividness, and there is some integrity in rejecting pink cloud optimism (“Yes, I am a fallen man,” the narrator reveals in “Keeping My Vigil”). But readers hoping for more than a reminder that everything sucks will likely be as disappointed as Knucklez’s narrators.

Eeyore-ish vignettes that offer feelings a depressed reader should recognize.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Meredith Broussard