The self-identified “deplorable poet” doesn’t quite live up to his name in this thoughtful, sometimes pained collection, a follow-up to the more avowedly political Social Distancing This!: A Confessional Imagist View Without Political Correctness. As his pen name suggests, the author, a specialist in criminal studies and forensic behavioral science, feels at odds with contemporary American society, but readers hoping for (or dreading) a MAGA screed may be surprised by what he actually offers: a searching, occasionally self-damning portrait of a man facing grief, the fear of abandonment, and the possibility that he has been corrupted like the criminals he has faced in his day job.
“The beast in me/ Wears a leash/ Called self-control,/ Which is guided/ More by self-perseverance / Than moral convictions,” he writes. Those lines—jagged, abrupt, scraped of ambiguity—exemplify the poet’s work, as does their bent. Throughout, the author returns to the theme of mastering his darkest impulses, of fearing that he bears a “Curse/ of/ Caine/ A Stench/ That cannot/ Be/ Removed.” This raw, confessional approach compels both as poetry and as unstinting self-portraiture. “Did I Forget You” incisively questions the limits of his own perspective; “Cornfield of Abandonment” takes on bereavement but also a broader sense of being alone and adrift, imagining Hell as a place “Where/ Communication/ To our/ Creator/ And the/ Ones we Love/ Ceases.” At times, his touch is light, as when he muses “I Believe/ Jesus/ Has/ Unfriended/ Me.”
Curiously, the least engaging lines are the directly political ones, which tend toward generic gripes about “the media” or prosaic statements of principle: “There is no such/ Thing as a free/ Ride/ When it comes/ From big brother.” Welcome celebrations of dogs and Anne Sexton, plus parodies of “The Red Wheelbarrow,” brighten the mood, and the comic scenario in “The Devil’s Advocate”—in which Satan’s lawyer toasts the sanctity of attorney-client privilege—has welcome bite.
Takeaway: A collection of curt, incisive poetry that lays bare a self-proclaimed “deplorable”‘s soul.
Great for fans of: Aaron Goldstein, The Conservative Poets: A Contemporary Anthology.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+