Book Review 2011-003
We Are All Good If They Try Hard Enough by Mike Young
2010 from Publishing Genius, 80 pages
(This copy purchased from the Publisher)
I've enjoyed reading Mike Young's work in the past, finding a poem here or story there, but having a full collection of his poetry to sit down with brings that level of enjoyment, of excitement really, to a much higher level.
An aspect of Mike's poetry that I've always enjoyed is a combination of playfullness and sincerity, and to be honest, this could be something that I've attritubed to Mike's poetry through growing to know Mike a bit over the past few years via emails, AWP, and readings I've attended. But reading this collection a couple of times this past week has me thinking that what I think of both Mike and his poetry is pretty accurate.
Reading any single Mike Young poem straight through does not always leave the reader with a feeling that there was a topic Young was writing about; he twists and turns throughout each poem, casting observations as rapidly as one clicking through television stations with their remote control. For instance:
"Do You Pray in the Shower"
No, but I do pretend to give interviews.
Which is another kind of complex, right?
Anything you can do, I can make a doll.
Zee mirror is a kind of punch clock, too,
and then you go, "Then so--" "Exactly."
Wouldn't it be nice to serve a head less?
Can't a guy say uh oh, chocolate maltballs?
Ride an antelope into the breaker room
or even be of snow on almonds generally?
This is this's fault, and I won't call you
"okay" unless that's really your name.
I wanted to show you more, but you were
in it, so I couldn't. Lillian zydeco hill bait.
I want to be useful as secret mouthwash.
If you rest halves of ping pong balls over
your eyes and indulge a bout of radio static,
it's like no one can judge you for being
afraid of LSD. It's hard to admit, but not all
of us will dance on your birthday at 4:52.
Look, they come in your house and nothing
is missing after they leave and you want to
thank someone. That's natural. I can see you.
God, grant me a belief in mostly everything.
Please don't make me call you selfish again.
There's the playfullness throughout the poem, but it wraps up with two lines that just hammered me to my chair. And Young does this time and again, interspersing his poems with lines that seem like they could be cast-off ideas, for instance the line above about riding an antelope into the breaker room, with lines like those last two, or:
When you are near me, I am a confident paper boat
in a bathtub full of Kool-Aid, where I tilt in circles toward
the drain, which does not worry me, for I know that a wet
hand will reach up and carry me into the kitchen.
And they list all of the things they love, but
they do it in a language you don't seem to have.
The title of the book seems to come into play for me as a reader--that if I tried hard enough, I'd understand. Or perhaps Mike Young felt that if he tried hard enough as a poet, we as readers would be good, that we'd understand that everything is important, or at least has importance to somebody. The list of things that get brought up, again seemingly randomly, throughout this collection is immense: Craigslist, MySpace, emoticons, antelopes, NyQuil, The Decemberists, and the list just goes on and on. But each of these is important to somebody or they wouldn't exist, or co-exist with each other.