Smith (From the Raft, 2012, etc.) offers a collection of poems inspired by tabloid headlines.
The author provides poetry on topics pulled from such publications as the National Enquirer, Sun, and Weekly World News and crafts narrative too weird to be true. Readers will encounter poems about a flying nun, a dwarf stuck in an airplane toilet, and flatulent sheep. This is a literary landscape in which aliens descend on the White House, a night watchman at the National Academy of Archaeology in Cairo attempts to impregnate mummies, and a woman finds a dead leprechaun in a jar. Smith treats readers to cameos by famous historical figures, including Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa, and pop-culture icons, such as Michael Jackson. Not all of Smith’s poems are humorous, however; some are downright tragic, such as “Boy Who Escaped Mass Grave Tells His Story,” in which the narrator proclaims “no one returns from his grave.” In “Back By Popular Demand / World’s Greatest Disasters,” Smith recalls the 1978 Jonestown massacre and the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Smith has occasional flashes of descriptive brilliance, as in a poem about Liberace: “his flesh / like gold leaf, his smile / like a grand piano keyboard.” However, the collection’s excessive use of expletives and gratuitous violence are off-putting. In “Schoolkids Scoffed at Nerdy Steven,” for instance, the titular young man is on the receiving end of a string of offensive slurs: “Kike, nigger, spick, mick, polack, kraut, wop, frog, / wasp, cocksucker, sissy, brain, creep, nerd.” Overall, the author’s subjects are colorful, but the poetry’s raison d’être seems to be pure shock and awe, not artistry or emotional depth. Then again, the author does warn readers early on that he’s “ready to chew that pulp and poop / poems that tread the water like a rush of fools.”
An unusual compilation with an unconventional structure hampered by an immature tone.