Brief Weather & I Guess a Sort of Vision
by Anthony Robinson
available here from Pilot Books
My fiancé, Craig, had the pleasure of being an extra in an FSU student film about a gay lagoon monster. Craig and his friends played construction workers and had to do this thing—wave their fists in the air (kind of like that guy Arsenio Hall) and go “wooo woooo,” while an actress-stripper danced over them from a tabletop. Craig said he was really embarrassed and the student director of said student film kept telling Craig “Hey dude, we need more intensity from you. More intensity.”
Late one night on IM, I told Anthony Robinson, who I refer to as “Clipper,” about Craig’s one, and thankfully, only experience as an actor. Little did I know, it would end up in Brief Weather & I Guess a Sort of Vision. I’m going to quote this poem in its entirety because of its short length:
“Maintain Intensity like Sandra’s Craig “in the sack” a gay swamp-
monster can never have too many lovers. some people
think I missed the boat but tipsy over: you are a “lazy snaky fuck.”
fried asparagus with Joe in Texas friendship is grand
which makes me appear lazy or naïve & I know about war
but I just wanna fuck. I know about pain & suffering & being cold
two-thirds there but we missed the blizzard. M. is getting married
in June. Daffodils have given way to cherry trees, to new construction
546 E. 16th Ave. half an alley away from the bike cage the first kiss”
I tell the back story because I think that it brings up something important about all of Robinson’s poems; they are emotional bits (and by this I do not just mean pain. I mean a whole range of emotions like laughter, self-doubt, desire) fragmented together in gorgeous mosaics. This is, in my mind, the power of Robinson’s chapbook. Emotional urgency gets deliberately undercut in a line like “but I just wanna fuck” and then finds its way back into the poem in a line like “M is getting married / in June.” A clear statement like this one seems, actually, to center the poem and bring it home to a place of human loneliness.
Tony had to explain to me how the chapbook works—because he only emailed me the poems in manuscript form. Apparently the book is arranged as a flipbook wherein the notes to the poem are printed on the reverse side of the poem. This is a good reason to buy the book. So, here are the notes to this poem.
[Sandra Simonds and another ex of mine, Marci. Who wants to guess what they have in common? I did eat fried asparagus with Joe Massey in Texas, the week prior to writing this poem. The fucking and war lines are lifted wholesale from the Jane’s addiction song “1%.”]
Fuck, now, anyone who doesn’t consider me a complete narcissist will after reading this review! By the way, I have no idea what I have in common with Marci—if I’m reading this note correctly. I like how Joe Massey comes into the poem because the note speaks directly to the time of the poem’s creation which creates a sort of intimacy with the poet. The notes, as a whole, give the chapbook a certain formal quality that I enjoy because, in a sense, they are sort of fake notes—notes poking a little fun at notes. See Jorie Graham.
Tony’s work is the closest to carrying the Ted Berrigan torch that I have seen from a young writer. He mixes the very casual: “Despair is for sissies so I shall write little nine-line poems for weeks!” with the erudite: “In the clouds over Europe a girl is afflicted: / Weltschmerz, Schadenfreude & other German things.” No hiding your PhD from me, Clipper. Brief Weather is the kind of book that you go back to—like Berrigan’s Sonnets; the more you read, the more there is to find and enjoy.