If I ever meet Michael Robbins I hope I can say to them, “Dude. You are F’ed up.” And I hope he smiles and says, “Thanks.”
Everything is nonsense in Alien vs. Predator. Yet it seems to make sense when it clearly does not make sense. (Or does it?) His words are strung together in a pattern of letters and words and grammar and punctuation and lines on a page that are alive and moving and telling a story and flowing and just assaulting the senses. My eyes gobbled up the text and wanted more when it ended. Each poem (like any poem) has a start and finish, but each one seems like it could easily continue into the next one. I cannot name one poem that jumped up and out at me as it was this one long One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich like book for this reader. I had to stop and digest everything, so unlike Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book, there are natural pauses after each piece of work. The format was like any traditional poem. It looked like a stereotypical poem. There is no fancy “set ups” and some even rhyme. Yet, there was something else. You know this is not your dad’s poetry. The “machine” was being assaulted from the inside out. Robbins thumbs his nose at the world, while it seems that he clearly loves being alive.
Robbins’ poetry is a mash-up of references and the publisher description and the coworker that recommended this book to me (as he and I were talking about Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre and his mix of poetry, rap/song and essay) says, “hip-hop and heavy metal lyrics, movie quotes, Bible verses, commercials, pop psychology, clichés, and nursery rhymes are all fair game.” Robbins takes all of this, throws it in the blender, hits obliteration and comes out with a cool, tall, messy and messed up drink of a book of poetry. There is a 1980’s sound to the language as with many of the references. Yet, it is not dated at all.
My coworker wrote in his review, “He blends them with wry bits of humor, sexuality, and encyclopedic bombast. The result is pure vulgar brilliance. His follow-up, The Second Sex, is fantastic as well.” I could not have said it better: vulgar brilliance. Therefore, as soon as I can breathe again (I think I was holding my breath a few times just trying to catch up to Robbins word stream) I am going to have to find Second Sex. If it makes my gut ache and my brain crave words like Alien vs. Predator did, I might never be the same again!
There are writing styles he copes and borrows from, but at the same time it is his voice. He does not sound like anyone else but does have an everyman voice. I have a feeling that high school and college students will eat this up like the 1950’s and 1960’s ate up Ginsberg and Kerouac.