Sunday, August 23, 2020


Vasectomania by Matthew Guenette (University of Akron Press, 2017) is simultaneously hilarious and melancholy, confessional and philosophical, tender and irreverent, so I loved it! I read my copy outside (like the cover image) in the cool, partly cloudy morning. It's an inscribed copy (!) from when I brought Matt Guenette back to Normal, where I had first met him, to read with Matthew Murrey in the Poetry is Normal Presents reading series at the Normal Public Library. It was the day of two Matthews, which, as the poem "Mountain Goats" reveals, has happened before: "My roommates / were all named Matt.....Matts and more Matts / like a clown car of roommates..." (I wrote about the other Matthew here.)

The poems are about the glories and horrors of marriage, parenting, and adulthood--hence, the humor, plus a lot of diapers. Random coincidii abound. For example, from the poem "Bastille Day," the lines "For the way we refrain / from eating our young" connected to a review I just read in a recycled (to me) New Yorker, about the movie Mr. Jones and the book Red Famine by Anne Applebaum, who wrote about Stalin's starvation policy in the Ukraine. Reviewer Anthony Lane says, "Some parents consumed their offspring, survived, and, having woken to the realization of what they had done, went mad." Guenette only does this metaphorically, with Cheerios and a (broken) vacuum cleaner, sometimes screaming at a clogged toilet.

I loved lines like, "Even a cat will eat Bugles," found in the poem "Communion." (My communion this morning, during Zoom Church, was, as usual, gummy vitamins and water, this time with lemon slices floating in it.) Followed by, "Even smoke flies into clarity," which made my eyes water, and relates to my ongoing fire worries, though I am happy to report that, during a Zoom 67th Anniversary Celebration for my parents yesterday, my California brother, whose neighbor had reassured him, was able to report, "Our house is still there." Followed by Guenette's understanding that he will

                                                          still eat a Twinkie
           with that god-knows-what holding it together,
     its shelf life like a communion wafer
     near to the promise of forever.

I loved "Nostalgia" with its tough mother and possibility of vacuum repair. I loved "3 a.m." with its "hamster wheel" insomnia and worries about "our gun lust // and privilege." I loved its "anthropomorphized animals" (you've seen pictures of my back yard) and shared fears: "Then I go home & wait / for the end of the world." I loved "Adjustable Beds," a mother dream with "swirling galaxies" in it. And I loved "Holland" for his sexy, farting wife and how tulips (their bulbs) can "[c]ook up like onions," which my mother did once, accidentally.

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