Saturday, July 18, 2015

This Life Now - Michael Broder (A Midsummer Night's Press)

Today's book of poetry:
This Life Now.  Michael Broder.  A Midsummer Night's Press.  Body Language 12.  New York, New York.  2014.

When you wet the bed first
it is warm then it gets cold.
                             -James Joyce

The Body Language series of books "are devoted to texts exploring questions of gender and identity."

The poems in Michael Broder's This Life Now have a quiet elegance to them, like whispers in a lover's ear, yet they arrive with full volume, resonate with energy.

These are poems about a young boy's first knowing, dangerous and tense teen travails, the horrible plague.  Mostly these very touching, searching poems are excellent vignettes about love, desire and coming to an understanding of one's own sexual exploration and expression.

Words and Things

Near the end we walked along the beach;
                   you said we felt disconnected,
          like a sentence with no conjunctions.

Once we had shared--
                   razors, toothbrush, a blanket,
          like sea and air share the horizon,

          reflecting, penetrating each other,
each better suited to any given thing,

          like air to birds, sea to fish,
yet both hospitable to rainstorms,

          and each with something unique
to offer sunsets.

Near the end we talked about words, 
          how actions speak louder
          but are generally inadequate

                    to hypotheses
                             and other logical or affective relations

                    whose truth or validity
                             are only apparent over time

                    as in

The pen is mightier than the sword
                                                         or the phrase
            Killing with kindness.


Today's book of poetry is at an ignorant crossroads, a self-inflicted dilemma.  Do I talk about Michael Broder and This Life Now as gay text -- or as I'd prefer -- just as good poetry?  I don't want to overemphasize the context -- and I don't want to ignore it.  

Today's book of poetry will listen to any constructive advice in this regard.

This Life Now, for TBOP, is Chet Baker smooth, all west coast cool, terribly handsome.  We loved how Broder cuts through modern culture to find the perfect touch stones like a crush on the Beaver's brother Chip, leaving a particular hue to the cues and curbstones in his wake.

A Brief History

In 1960, by my mother, my father's bread is buttered
         without irony.
Then, the word "luncheonette" was uttered without irony.

Sodium lamps surround our housing project like a stalag.
Home alone, watching Rosemary's Baby, I shuddered
         without irony.

High school girls wonder why Michael won't date them.
In a pizzeria, over a vial of pills, her eyelashes fluttered,
         without irony.
In the lower bunk I ask permission before removing my briefs.
From above, "I love you," stuttered without irony.


Broder's keen coming-of-age poems are real beauties.  He navigates all those difficult moments with an adult poets' intelligence and aplomb and yet keeps all the innocent child's guileless magic.  This is no small mechanical feat yet Broder does this sort of thing again and again in this splendid collection.

When Broder turns a corner he takes us with him.  These poems tell the story of coming to consciousness in childhood, from teen horrors and joys, the spurting adolescent to the unrepentant young man who wrote these lovely poems.

You See, The Thing Is,

I've been in love before,
but never like this,
the way I lie, arm around him,
dark outside, can't sleep,
thinking of mother in a hospital bed,
lying awake while dawn comes,
yellow, gray, and slightly stale,
the hundred and eighty
degrees I turn, the away I face,
clock I check as he rolls over,
fast asleep, and catches me.


TBOP looks forward to Michael Broder's second book, this is a first class start.

Michael Broder

Michael Broder (Freeport, New York, 1961) holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University, an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University, and a PhD in Classics from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in BLOOM, Court Green, Columbia Poetry Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Classical World, and other journals, as well as in the anthologies This New Breed, My Diva, Divining Divas, Rabbit Ears, and Ancient Obscenities.
He has taught at Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Queens College, York College, and the Graduate Center, all of which are campuses of the City University of New York, as well as at Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ) and The University of South Carolina (Columbia, SC).
He lives in Brooklyn with his lawfully wedded spouse, the poet Jason Schneiderman, and numerous cats, both feral and domestic. This Life Now is his first book.

“Michael Broder’s moving and lucid poems have heart, music, audacity—and they give a quiet, lasting pleasure, like an ancient Greek torso reshaped for the space age. This Life Now is full of salt, sex, TV, and other riveting varieties of poised explosiveness, to which his lucky reader blissfully surrenders.”
     —Wayne Koestenbaum

“Dare I confess that this wise and sassy and heartbreaking collection made me scour YouTube for past episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Such are the subtle, ethereal, and playful gifts of Michael Broder’s poems that a reader won’t want to miss any allusion. No matter how bittersweet or fleeting, these poems, which span more than thirty-years of an emerging queer consciousness, chart an unflinching poetics for the missing and unaccounted for. The book makes so many foundational moments and episodes of a thriving culture reappear and cohere, with such grim acceptance and celebration, that it takes our breath away.”
     —Peter Covino

Michael Broder
Cafe Be with guest, poet Michael Broder
video:  Mark McNease


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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