Ordinary Monsters. Justin Bond. Mongrel Empire Press. Norman, Oklahoma. 2017.
"And as you lie in bed
like an effigy of yourself
it is the ordinary that comes to save you."
Justin Bond's Ordinary Monsters blooms open like some splendid bruise you have to touch just to see how much it is going to hurt. Then you need to reassure yourself, was that pain or pleasure, and you touch the bruise once more.
Perhaps comparing poetry to a bruise is unfair and misleading but Bond can stand the heat. These poems are plain beautiful, and wise, and witty.
Today's book of poetry can be clueless, and clueless we were, not realizing that Justin Bond was gay. This man's lovely love poems transcend gender. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, we take that as a given. Bond takes up some of that territory between love and lust, he uses these tight poems to bridge that gap.
The Right Way to Want Me
Justin Bond just comes off so damned smart with his big heart and compassionate brain. Ordinary Monsters made Today's book of poetry laugh, cry and even momentarily, uncomfortably horny. That particular poem is one my lovely wife of twenty-five years will probably want to read. (Hello Sweetie)
The clumsy point Today's book of poetry is trying to make is that these poems are universal. By being honest with himself Bond unveils some of the deep truths we are all tethered to regardless of our preferences in plumbing.
There is a real hopeful stance to Justin Bond's poetry. Ordinary Monsters is dense with optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, and the reader will follow Bond anywhere he cares to go. After the first couple of poems of Ordinary Monsters there was no doubt about Today's book of poetry being a Justin Bond fan.
Let it not be forgotten
that I was no more or less
than the sum of my instincts.
Would you blame me for hunger?
A girl moved like flame through the forest.
Even now she smolders the brush of those dead years.
Blood is untamable.
She was weak, I was not,
and this world will not let you choose.
And after the "wolf" poem, Today's book of poetry knew we were in deep. Mr. Bond can burn with the best.
Last evening, Today's book of poetry was on the front porch with the fore mentioned K, we were talking about Wisława Szymborska, because it was her birthday. Later today I will pull out some Szymborska from the stacks and add them to the reading pile on K's side of the bed. K has a very low tolerance for bad, so-so and mediocre poetry. I only dare leave her "the best of the best of the best" as Rip Torn would have said if Men In Black were about poetry. I won't hesitate to add Bond to K's reading pile either.
Once when I was a child
walking alone to my grandma's house
I saw something scary in the woods.
I still remember the snap of the twig
like a crunching of bone
that startled me silent mid-song,
the dun-colored fur covering the leg
that stepped out from behind the trunk
of an old pecan tree,
foreign and sapling-thick.
How I ran, clumsily and blindly, fearing
the thing all children secretly fear most:
the fairytale come to life.
We grow up and the world grows
smaller. The monsters it breeds
have become a more ordinary variety,
hairy-legged and hungry,
some wearing the faces of people
I tell myself I might want to love.
But even as I feel myself opening
to receive them, I shut my eyes tight
as two fists, I can't bear to look back
at the forest behind me.
Ordinary Monsters made for an excellent morning read here at Today's book of poetry. The one complication was that as we don't have air conditioning in the Today's book of poetry offices, we were forced into the basement to get out today's blog/review. There's a big fan on the box where I've got my computer. My computer itself sits on it's own "cooling fan" base. But sometimes things burn up - it was 35 C in Ottawa yesterday, with the humidex it was 110 F, hotter than Baghdad.
It's going to remain very hot all week so I've given orders to cover up the windows and doors. But it is too late; our first floor is blistering hot, the second floor has turned to liquid magma, last time I checked it was 374 C.
The staff reading itself was great, Bond speaks with such a lovely, almost gallant voice and his poems make the reader sound intelligent. Our crew like that.
Justin Bond reminded Today's book of poetry of the wide variety of voices needed to make up a choir, and they are out there in the poetry ether, yawping Whitmanesque, brilliant voices.
Gay poet, gay poetry. Today's book of poetry is absolutely certain this poetry transcends my ability/desire to label it. If you are a regular Today's book of poetry reader you will probably be at the point where you just let the poems speak for themselves. That would always be excellent advice, but dear reader, please know, please trust me, when I say that we have a poetry loving staff working hard to bring you the very best poetry we can find - regardless of gender or choice of public restroom.
Justin Bond's poems are simply beautiful beasts you'll recognize as they work their way through to your poetry heart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Bond was born, raised and educated in Oklahoma. He is the author of the chapbook Going Native (Red Bird 2014). His work has been included as part of The Pulitzer Remix (a National Poetry Month initiative), performed in Emotive Fruition’s 2016 Pride performance, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives and works in New York City.
BLURBS"All of the new thinking is about loss," Robert Hass once wrote. "In that, it resembles all of the old thinking." Gay poet Justin Bond's gorgeous debut collection pays beautiful, painful homage to this human tradition. These pages steep the reader in passion and grief, stark and gleaming. They nourish us with lust, lyricism and the will to go on, which is, as Bond says, "part of what elevates us above a clumsy gallop of meat and bone.”
—Ruth L. Schwartz, winner of the National Poetry Series prize,
Autumn House Press Poetry Prize, Anhinga Prize for Poetry, AWP Award Series prize.
"The story of us,” writes Justin Bond, “is the story of America.” The smart, insightful, and revelatory poems of Ordinary Monsters are themselves stories of us (both reader and writer) but also of this vast and bizarre country.
And like our country, Bond’s poems are diverse, ambitious, and explosive.
Walt Whitman would love their big, expansive, democratic heart. You will too.
—Dean Rader, winner of the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize,
2010 Writer's League of Texas Poetry Prize, and the George H. Bogin Award from the Poetry Society of America
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.
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