by Zach Yanowitz, Colorado Review Editorial Assistant
As the school year winds down I’ve been thinking about how to spend my summer Free Time, a concept that my life seems to have forgotten since beginning my MFA in August. I have decided that Summer 2016 is going to be the Summer of Consumption. I should be clear that by “consumption” I don’t mean “tuberculosis,” but rather that I hope to spend these next three months voraciously devouring as many books/albums/etc. as I can get my grubby poet hands on while I have the opportunity to do so. Here is a brief list of some art that I’m going to metaphysically demolish this summer now that my only responsibilities are working part-time to pay rent and entertaining my dog:
1. War of the Foxes, by Richard Siken
His first poetry collection, 2005’s Crush, absolutely tore me apart when I first read it (“Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us. / These, our bodies, possessed by light. / Tell me we’ll never get used to it”). War of the Foxes, his 2015 book, from Copper Canyon Press, promises to be just as musical and eviscerating as his last, delving into self-conception and artistic creation and imperfect humans slamming their love into each other like a fistfight. If you see me holding back tears in a Fort Collins coffee shop over the summer, there’s about a 60% chance it’s because I’m reading Siken. The other 40% could be any number of reasons.
2. Modern Baseball and Joyce Manor at the Summit Music Hall in Denver
Modern Baseball and Joyce Manor are third-wave emo/punk bands from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Torrance, California, respectively. They sound like if Jawbreaker and early-period Weezer sang about regretting stupid tattoos and snarled over trying to fall in love via social media. Modern Baseball’s “Rock Bottom” has been stuck in my head the entire last month of the semester as I had to talk myself through final papers and grading (“to hell with class, I’m skipping / let’s order food and sleep in / I’ve got so much to do / but it’s okay / cuz whatever forever.” I fully expect to be the oldest person at the concert (I’m twenty-six) and will need somebody to hold my glasses so I can get in the mosh pit. Sometimes headbanging and impaired hearing for days is the best kind of catharsis.
3. If You Steal, by Jason
Jason is an Eisner and Harvey Award–winning Norwegian cartoonist known for darkly funny, minimalist, and deeply heartbreaking comics starring blank-eyed, anthropomorphic animals committing hijinks-filled crimes and destroying families from the inside out. Sometimes when I read his books I’m laughing and sobbing at the same time, which is very confusing to my dog. His new collection, from Fantagraphics Books, has been staring at me from my bookshelf since January, and I can’t wait to read about his mostly silent characters falling in love and dying in vain.
4. Coloring Book, by Chance The Rapper
Chicago-based hip-hop artist Chance The Rapper released his new mixtape on May 12, featuring such rap luminaries as Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Young Thug (who I’m convinced is an actual alien). Chance is a wildly experimental rapper, incorporating jazz and gospel with his trademark high-pitched yelps and introspection. There’s nobody else rapping right now capable of such complicated internal rhyme while sounding so laconic and unconcerned about his own skills (“hit Jericho with a buzzer beater to end a quarter / watch brick and mortar fall like dripping water”). He is a being composed purely of light and joy, and when he whispers “this is my part, nobody else speak” on Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam,” the entire world shuts up and grants him the space to be himself. Would that I could be so cool and collected with my poetry.
5. Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Handbook, 5th Edition
Graduate school is great in that it forces you to think hard and critically about Very Serious Literature, but I will admit that it can be a little draining after nine months. This summer I’m hoping to loosen my brain up a little bit and straight-up fight some cave monsters in my imagination by playing D&D with some other MFA people. My creative work has always been informed by pop culture and outlying genres, and I think it’s very important to be able to react instinctually to fleeting moments of inspiration and crisis. If I get some poems out of it, that would be fantastic. If all I do is shoot a fireball at some trolls, that would also be okay.
My stack of AWP poetry books is so overwhelmingly tall that I could write this blog post forever, but then I would never have the time to read any of them. The small press publishing world and the MFA world are both so small and insular that it feels essential at times to flex out against the bubble and draw in influences from elsewhere, otherwise we’ll just end up writing and publishing the same work over and over. Summer is a chance to take the foot off the academia gas pedal for a few months but press it down just as hard elsewhere. Would I even be a writer otherwise?