Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nate Slawson is the Man.

This is Nate Slawson and I love his poetry just as much as I love his mustache:


He's a relatively undiscovered poet (living in Chicago!!) who daylights as the head of Cinematheque Press, a "literary imprint company" aiming to converge text, art, and film. His company is creative in and of itself, as it integrates multiple forms of media in order to share art in a unique way. Their "chapbooks" best illustrate this innovation; they've reclaimed the 19th century penny book, substituting the teachings of God with Slawson's poetry. 

What I think Slawson should be most commended for, however, are his raw and beautiful poems. To me, he reappropriates the sonnet, using a single run on sentence to convey love, heartbreak, and regret. His metaphors are seemingly spontaneous, making his poems feel rough and full of emotion. 

While I am no expert in the poetry field, I've never seen anything like his work and I believe his style to be unique and creative. Few other poems have conjured emotion in me like his do, and I attribute that to his repeated use of a noun after a noun rather than the typical adjective-noun sequence. While other poets have previously cast aside conventions of the English language, I think Slawson does it in a original way, creating broken down images of a world I can identify with.

This is my favorite poem from the series he calls "The Teenage Sonnets." They all begin with the title "you are (blank)" and proceed to compare his lost teenage love to a whole number of preposterous things.

you are ohio
so I had this dream we
were a map of the midwest.
you were ohio & I was
michigan & I was all over
you & it was so fucking hot
your spine was on fire all
the way down to cincinnati,
& god damn if that ain’t
the most depressing thing
because I knew I’d wake
up wishing I was kentucky
& your ankles were a river
wrapped around my throat,
but it don’t matter either way
because motherfuck if you aren’t
always telling me the same thing—
it’s not happening, uh-uh,
not in this time zone, brother,
or any other place.

I love the feeling of nonchalance that his work conveys. His unabashed use of swear words and vulgarities make it clear that he's not putting on any airs--these are his honest to God feelings. It's a realness I admire and I think it's both remarkable and innovative that he's able to achieve this through a few crazy metaphors.

In regards to his creative process, I can only begin to imagine how he comes up with the phrases he uses in his poems. I would imagine he is consciously aware of the feeling he is trying to convey, and then is struck spontaneously by the words that do it.  In this interview (here) he describes how some poems he must "edit, and fidget, and fudge" while others "went on wild adventures." This process seems comparable to the creatives we've been studying in class, where the solution to his problem is achieved through a Eureka moment.

While Slawson has yet to be embraced by a wider audience, I have no doubt that his creative work will eventually lead to acknowledgement.  Here's a link to more of his poetry, and I also recommend buying his book Panic Attack, USA. It's angsty and bitter and wonderful.

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