As Long As You’re Happy

This poet strikes us half as a sad man trying to look happy and half as a sad man too tired to be anything but sad. Initially, his tone has something of the standup comic, but as he proceeds the monologue becomes relentlessly bleak. Sloppy surrealism (“Dogs give commands to me in one syllable,/ the same one again and again”) is set in a flat, “conversational” style that would be poor prose were it not arbitrarily chopped up into lines, and an air of depressive befuddlement predominates: ” . . . I always wandered off/ in my head trying to figure out just whose body/ I was in and what the hell is all this anyway?” The chief object of interest for this poet is himself: “my chandelier/ of egotism burning in an empty head.” Indeed, he admits he’s “even stopped writing poetry/ thinking a simple report will do.” It will not. Frank J. Lepkowski, Oakland Univ. Libs., Rochester, Mich.

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Selected by

Seamus Heaney