Thursday, September 19, 2019

Against — Matt Robinson (Gaspereau Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Against.  Matt Robinson.  Gaspereau Press.  Devil's Whim Chapbook No. 38.  Kentville, Nova Scotia.  2018.

Today's book of poetry read Matt Robinson's A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking (Insomniac Press, 2001) back in the day but we had Milo, our head tech, dig it out of the stacks so we could give it another once over before we feasted on Robinson's Against.  

Against is fun, in a cranky sort of way.  You eat it up.  Tear off a bit, roll it around between your tongue and cheek.  Presto, as soon as it hits your poetry taste buds, well, by then the Devil has had his/her way.  You're hooked.

Against is against everything.  Against is a systematic, analytic, thorough and unabashed curmudgeonly look at every thing there is to be against since before the first Zamboni hit the ice.

Matt Robinson is up against it.  If it's out there, our man Matt is against it.

Against The New Year's Day Hangover

     But I enjoy the idea of their shade
     when the sun hits them right.

When the sun hits them right, those empties
extant in their nesting of shards are less
a dull, throbbing reminder of last night's poor choices
and excess, and more a loosely curated drunk's
afterglow, a showy blown-glass derangement
resting skew-countered, serrated, all edgily cornered
but softened somehow by fruit flies' flittered near caul.
It's the small things, after all. Especially
on mornings like this one when your piss and vinegar's
turned and perverted—been swallowed, undone,
and inverted—to a vinegared distillate pissed at
the mumbling, curvilinear brink of the nauseous,
off-colour dawn's waiting bowl, while
your near-useless hands semi-morse for purchase
against the sink's brim or the unfinished skim
coat of that wall you'd sworn you'd get to.
Last night's howls at the moon, now long gone
and cocooned somewhere in the Advil-gauzed
ale aphasias that stipple your brain's stewing meat.
This new year's a sudden 100 watt bulb,
weaponized; a light's tenuous rhetoric aggressively
weighing the pros and the cons of the eyes'
new-found, ad hoc focus on what passes for promise.
For darkest fears. It's all you can do,
at this waking moment, to blink; your jaundiced lids'
strobing—in the bleary, calendar-tossing AM—
seems an intermittent inconvenience of fact;
a subconscious bias, betrayed. The trick, of course, is learning
to enjoy the idea of their shade.


As Today's book of poetry is a teetotaler for the most part we had to survey our staff to better understand what a hangover might be like.  Against Today's book of poetry's better judgment we decided to take our Senior Editor, Max, at his word and believe his hangover stories as gospel.  Pretty sure Matt Robinson would be against that too.

Matt Robinson's Against is a real misanthropic marvel, a canyon filling calamity of complaint disguised as the most sulphurous of vapors — poetry.  Bless his cotton socks.  Today's book of poetry was much amused, even against our better instincts.

Robinson's complaints are both universal and deeply personal, all encompassing and all consuming.  In the proper frame of mind Today's book of poetry is convinced Matt Robinson could be against anything.

Against The Opposable Thumb

Briefly unhinged at some pivotal juncture
of a late summer's football-matched
pratfall, this thumb's now a cranky old bugger—uneasily
angry and warily perched on the proverbial porch
of my damaged right hand. Bruise-bloated; arthritic
and swaying; prone to fits of distemper. Barely
able to grasp a mere semblance of whatever
sly, rumoured rhetoric at which its stick has been shaking,
it longs for a line drawn in the sand that slips through
its neighbouring digits' failed clutch. This dull ache's the new face
of what passes for real flexibility in a suddenly post-fractural
world; how our grasp on reality's set, and then loosed,
grudgingly. A trumped up indignant, it's opposed, constantly—
aches to say, in the morning's damp cool
or each evening's close, clammy heat:
Take a hike. Take a seat and watch the world burn.
Yes, this knucklehead seems at once to know best, or know
nothing; or, ape just as much. A nouveau, bespoke, hipster-maker
of handwrung once-fists, of faux-wrought A-OKs—
we just hope its signed puppetry's shadows
are—in some guise—in the end, no more or no less than
good ol' pick-me-ups, an innocence
mimed. Just vaudevillian gestures towards our
coming to grips. Only another nail chewed, chewed,
eschewed, and then spit.


If Matt Robinson had his way we'd be driving our Zamboni's without any thumbs at all.  Cry havoc.
Another crazy week here in the Today's book of poetry offices, people coming, others going.  The usual September confusion.  

In Today's book of poetry world September has always been the real start of the year.  That's when things start.  January 1st is just the weekend after Christmas.  Today's book of poetry is against January starting the year off and we believe we might convince Matt Robinson to be against it too.  Just for the spite of it.

These too few poems make a bigger impact than you might first expect.  Wasn't it Joe Orton himself who was "Kicking Against the Pricks" and really against it all.  Today's book of poetry is going to make a list shit-kickers and Matt Robinson is going to be on it.  Only the best will do.

Our morning read was highly entertaining.  Maggie, our new Jr. Editor, set the stage with a rousing reading of Robinson's "Against the AR-15".  Then she started pointing fingers.

Against The Wedding Invitation Ampersand

Imperfect ornament; unfinished
script. Lazy journeyman's apprentice-
wrought hackjob of a joinery's
grip left askew and still setting, edges
un-knit. An incomplete circuit,
its breakers just tripped as an idea's
new train of thought makes its ponderous,
penultimate turn and then slows
to pull into mind's station. Unsung
treble clefs, they are nothing
but poorly tied bows on spectacular gifts.
These loop-de-looped maps' near
pseudo-suggestions are a sky's inky contrails,
scrawled insinuations polluting
our horizon's far flung, bird's eye
scansion, its cloudless grammar. Nothing
but a brutish fool's tools—nails
crudely hammered and prised once
and again, and then left en plein air,
an iron-y tangle. They're typeset brambles
hedging their bets on how we—us two,
our traceried routes—have meandered
about and around and into each
and the other. On how the art of connection
sometimes leaves even language
to wonder.


Matt Robinson's Against proves once and again that size doesn't matter.  This short chapbook stands tall, tall, tall, and against the tide.  Today's book of poetry loved Robinson's verisimilitude, as grumpy as the weather.

Well done is well done.  The proper burn.

Today's book of poetry is tickled pink to have Against heading into the stacks to keep Robinson's A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking company.

Matt Robinson

Matt Robinson’s previous poetry collections include Against the Hard Angle (2010), no cage contains a stare that well (2005), how we play at it: a list (2002), and A Ruckus of Awkward Stacking (2000), as well as numerous chapbooks. Robinson has won the Grain Prose Poetry Prize, the Petra Kenney Award, and The Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, among others. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his family.



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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