The Island Itself

In this addition to the “National Poetry” series, Fanning uses short, tightly controlled poems to investigate what it means to be a man in today’s world. Several poems, including “Anti-Mannequin,” attack dull jobs, “days of tedium and fitting in . . ./ dead end jobs. I thought adulthood meant autonomy.” Others honor the dead and the dying: “There is the world: devouring, clouded.” Some of Fanning’s subjects are incredibly banal: the author’s toes, a dead pet rabbit, an adolescent crush. His poems work best when they sail past the everyday, as in “Beyond the Cloud People,” a paean to blue-haired elderly ladies: “But a cloud hairdo looks cool, cold/ as a person’s last pillow.” Like many first collections, this one is uneven, but there are a few gems; and Fanning succeeds at presenting a hard, unsentimental look at modern life. As he himself summarizes, “There is no other world for us./ Mouse traps, bug spray, preserve our safety.” For large collections.

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Selected by

Michael Ryan