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You Must Remember This: Poems by Michael…

You Must Remember This: Poems

by Michael Bazzett

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Full disclosure: Michael Bazzett is my nephew, so naturally I was eager to read this book. YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS is Bazzett's first full collection of poems (although he has previously published a chapbook, THE IMAGINARY CITY, in 2012).

For someone of my generation, the book's title is perhaps misleading. I guess I was expecting something more in the "a kiss is just a kiss" vein of poetry. No such luck. These are poems to ponder, to wonder over. I won't lie. There are some pieces here I'm still trying to figure out and may never fully understand. Maybe it's because his influences are so diverse and, for the ordinary reader at least, pretty obscure. European poets Antonio Machado and Tomaz Salamun ("Imperfection") figure in, and maybe a little Borges. Homer's ODYSSEY ("Cyclops" and "Elpenor") are in the mix, as are Saul Bellow's HERZOG, and even a nod to former Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten ("September Picnic").

Dreams figure prominently here, in "After Machado" and "In Vladivostok" for example. And settings range variously from Mexico ("The Horse") to Canada and Siberia. And there is a definite playfulness displayed in poems like "Recollection" in which a nameless narrator puts himself together from his various parts, from his tongue in an "embroidered box on the bedside table" and "pale twinned arms / lie nestled together in a battered cello case," to his pelvis "on a wooden saddle" and "the hairy coil of my privates / rests on the dresser, next to a pile of coins." And there is the "silent" ink central to the fanciful "The Sinclair Gift Emporium."

Sex and sexuality also play frequent roles - in "Manhood," "The Crisis," "Aria," "Some Party" and others.

A few poems here particularly resonated. "The Dark Thing," a creature stoned and poked with sticks, evoked the "kill the pig" frenzy of LORD OF THE FLIES; and "The Book of _________" maybe Heinlein or even Stephen King. And "Orangutan," in which a daughter's dalliance with an electric ape produces a result reminiscent of James Dickey's "The Sheep Child."

I am sure that my brother (the poet's father) will find a favorite here in the final poem, "The Last Time I Saw God," with its nameless narrator rocking along in a night subway car, seated next to God - "That is when I noticed his slight resemblance to my father."

For some reason as I read this book I kept remembering the Housman poem, "Terrence, this is stupid stuff." There's probably no correlation, except that I want to say: Michael, this is strange stuff. But then poetry often stumps me, and if obscurity equals talent, then Michael Bazzett is full of it. (Talent, I mean.) Highly recommended. ( )
  TimBazzett | Dec 9, 2014 |
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