Sunday, July 21, 2013

Need Machine - Andrew Faulkner

Today's book of poetry:  Need Machine.  Andrew Faulkner.  Coach House Books.  Toronto.  Ontario.  2013.

Andrew Faulkner's first book from Toronto's venerated Coach House Press, Need Machine, is simply too damned good.  There must be someone to complain about this too, but whom?  Faulkner rattles off razor sharp and deathly smart poems from the opening page.

The Lobby

The Holiday Inn sign issues the kind of light
you inhale through a dollar bill.

On the fringe of the parking lot, it's a lot like
the Wild West: a grave Corolla rusts,

and someone pisses on an oak at dusk
as if his urine were an axe.

I commission a new scent to enter
rooms before me and pat down its occupants,

confiscating cellphones and sketch pads.
It's not paranoia if your interest is academic.

I'm flannel mouthed.  Produce a sweat that lingers
like a waxy second skin.  In the corner, the last American-made

pinball machine grazes on quarters.
But the concierge doesn't care.  His yawn is wide and full

as a luscious lash arcing over the eye of finance.
That's a mouthful, over the phone.  Can you say that again?

The piped-in music swells like teen acne.
The concierge nods solemnly.  He can, he can.


Matthew Dickman, author of Mayakovksy's Revolver, had this to say about Faulkner's debut volume Need Machine:
     After reading Mr. Faulkner's incredible book, something happened.  I began
     to feel bad for the person I was before reading his poems, I felt bad that I had
     been living without the joy and wonder of this book for so long.  Faulkner's
     poems illuminate the world we live in, engage in its humour and strangeness,
     its sadness and bravery.  The poet writes: "I've strapped dynamite to your
     heart/ and jammed a bit between your teeth./  How bored you must have been/
     before you met me.'  And he's right.  It was so goddamn boring before we met him.

This was the blurb on the back cover.  Wish I'd written it, hope Mr. Dickman doesn't mind me quoting it.


The east wing of my heart rises like a hot
air balloon.  The west wing descends like bad
news on the oblivious.  The radical wing
of my heart sets fire to the stock exchange.
The silent wing gestures like a museum.
The wings of hope trade away several promising prospects.
Winging it at the press conference,
despair tells fans the team wouldn't
have made the playoffs anyway.  As a right-winger
I've scored several goals and lowered
your taxes.  As a left-winger, I'm here for you.
Attention all passengers, this is the captain speaking:
that thing on the wing is the old god, the small god,
all the thieves and lawyers, every good deal you've made.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what keeps us aloft.


Faulkner frequently jolts the reader with electric images, a shocking strike to the central cortex. Faulkner's rapier wit and caustic charm abound, but never get in the way of these very smart poems.


Dot-com speculation.  Violin lessons.
Behind your old grade school, the spotty field
you first drank in.
                            No, you're son
has a failure to thrive.  A train jumps its tracks
onto another, shittier set of tracks.
The spiny, thin-ribbed ego of success
takes a comparison to a condom personally.
Even though you meant it as a compliment.
And even though it's true.


Need Machine is an exciting read.  I like poetry that makes me laugh and this book did that with aplomb.  I like poetry that makes me think, challenges what I believe to be true, Faulkner accommodated.

Coach House Books has long been publishing an essential stream of Canadian poetry, Need Machine assures Andrew Faulkner a place on the water.

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