Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Jason Bredle

I am exhibiting signs of early-onset Bredlemania, and I have Jason Bredle to thank for that. I have been practically glued to his work, what I can find of it on the Internet, ever since I discovered it on Friday.

I first learned of him while scanning through the online content of the Missouri Review. There are three of his poems posted there. His prosaic style and brilliant sense of humor captivated me. I immediately started scouring the Internet for more. Found his website, which pointed me to his blogs, which are hysterical, found Aurora Borealis Beard Fire Party, which made me laugh and enjoy the outstanding wordplays and rhythms, found The Crossfire, the Breathtaking Explosions, O, which is so complex, and so efficient in every line, that I haven't even found halfway of it yet, and then I found The Idiot's Guide to Faking Your Own Death and Moving to Mexico.

This last one is probably the most intense, although I am probably only saying that because I haven't fully parsed any of his works yet, but this one I am starting to crack the shell of, and it is everything you could hope a work of art is: it is moving, it is sad, it is funny, it is refreshing, it's challenging, it's musical, it's weird, it's exciting, it's devastating, it's demanding, it's actually easy to relate to. It's all of these things and more.

A work of art is best when it entices the audience to explore it, and as they explore it, they are rewarded at every layer with new insight, emotion, and a feeling of intellectual accomplishment.

Bredle opens the poem with an ostensibly humorous stanza, which disarmed me into thinking this would be a fun piece, like the ones I read in the Missouri Review.

Every few seconds I check the Bible
to see what Jesus is saying about me. The answer
is always nothing. Sometimes

Note how the last word of the last line pulls you into the next stanza, while also providing a funny nonsequitur. There is plenty more to say about this stanza, like the surreal impression of someone checking the Bible every few seconds for anything, let alone the possibility of new information that wasn't already there, or the use of in media res, and there may be something going on with the s sound there, but I haven't figured it out yet, and the break on the second line is curious. Broken on the period, the rhythm is perhaps too conventional, makes the stanza soft, but...

My point is actually that even though I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of this poem, it is written so exquisitely, that I can't hold back from blogging about it already. It suddenly hit me today as I was re-reading it for the Nth time, o no, is he contemplating suicide? He has before? Is he grappling with his belief in God? Remembering someone who has died? Did they commit suicide? The language goes back and forth, creating paradoxes, I guess such is life, he is confused and, as the reader, I feel the confusion, and yet... The title of this poem is ...Faking Your Own Death... Is he joshing me? That would be kind of humiliating because I am really feeling empathetic for this author the more I am reading this, but perhaps the humiliation is intentional, like he feels it too. He can't believe his own thoughts, and feels astonished by them. He writes...

I've gone forever. I know! That's what I thought
too. This is the story, but in this language, this
is not the story. I am eating red ice,

harvesting a field of knives. I am speaking
the language in which heaven and earth mean
the same, in which sky and white mean the same.

Ah, I have a lot more reading to do on this poem before I feel comfortable with my understanding of it, but I can surely tell you that it is art of an exceptional quality.

I checked Left Bank Books, but they didn't have Bredle's book, Standing in Line for the Beast, so I had to order a copy. Should be here before the week is done.

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