REVIEW: Antisocial by David Blaine (reviewed by Emily Peterson Crespo)

Antisocial by David Blaine, Outsider Writers Collective and Press (2009):

David Blaine’s Antisocial has the real fuck’em-all attitude—an American apathetic can shout “whoo” about after a beer, and the heartache of someone looking back later, quietly. He manages to do this while he tries on different styles. I caught myself noting his self-flagellation about writing villanelles one week in ‘Passing’, and then looking to find one villanelle in the book, I see one in that form that is only interesting at all if you imagine he is being sarcastic in ‘Bound to be free.’ He probably is. I loved ‘Glitterati,’ which is about a girl who in all ways showed you up the author because she was naturally more talented, but it wasn’t a poem. It was a short little prose snapshot, the kind of self-mimesis you get that is a drink at the bar long to reiterate for the thousandth time. Also speaking of Blaine’s style, there is a lyrical little song that starts off the book called ‘Innuendo’ that demonstrates the way he he leaves dangling narrative threads, and ties things up at the same time.

“Someone has his
on my money
he’s seen everyone
I’ve ever paid off

this man’s out back
his straightjacket’s
but he’s the sanest sonofabitch
In here

I ask him why he’s laughing
locked up out of sight
he says
I’ve got your number”

This poem has confusing narrative elements, but using my imagination, I write a short story in my head out of the poem, and it works to get me to a place that makes enough sense for the italics. What counts in a poem is sometimes an aesthetic that is beyond the poem, the type-font, and the semantics according to dictionaries. Sometimes you find yourself working to understand a poet’s epoch and sentiments without dragging in one’s own made up stories about the poet.

This book was written to be read in a place you can swill, and hear bits of other people’s laughter getting you back into listening to him read. You can be amused and re-wounded by your own memories listening to him. You can fade in and out comfortably between sips. Its got a hooker, its got lists of alcohol. It brings Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg back to life and has them not wanting to come back to life to our piss-poor world of faux-individualists. There is a real even-nostalgia-is-effing-dead-on arrival here kind of feeling that one can have a little buzz of schadenfreude about. He is sharing a true sorrow in life; that people can’t move on sometimes because its too late for them.

“we once had a beginning
we once had a destination
but somewhere
along the way
our journey turned upon itself
don’t wait up for me
turn your porch light off
it seems I’ve stayed on past the exit”

I can see him laughing at the metaphors he writes in to keep from crying. It is a curious imaginarium to think that the pearly gates
would seem fake and worn out by the time one gets there ,but by saying so it inverts the sorrow of death. Still, David Blaine feels sad but he’s got a way around the blues, and it makes me imagine a whole symphony of minor tunes that end in C major or G major for a twist.

All in all, the sense I have is that Blaine’s poet heart has vision. You got to be there when he looked into the window and decided to leave the smudge on his face in ‘They looked like trash.’ I’d read a poem like that proudly, knowing well that we can all fathom the moment when you get to choose how to live, when the rest of the time all the lessons about letting go, or about holding on, or about everything being connected just fail to illumine your pitiful self. I’d read a poem like that and think, ‘Ah ha. I got it just that once, and for that handful of times when I got it, I get to feel this strong little poemarical moment. ‘

In this nice book of 44 poems, David Blaine shows the slow and rainy arguments of his life-long devoted love-hate relationship with
existence. His got a cigarette and and the ghost to prove why he still likes the feel for smoking in ‘That human disease’. He’s got
the constant bumping against pretensions, or meaninglessness to contend with as we all do, and he turns it into poetry. Just read his
unauthorized composition of Dick Cheney for humor, where he juxtaposes the man contradicting himself about Saddam Hussein having nuclear weapons. Blaine is just having fun with what drove us all crazy and with the things about life that drive us crazy. A final caveat about his book Antisocial; its a damn good little trip, but it makes you want to have a drink, or two.—Emily Peterson Crespo


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