Matthew Dickman’s poems are haunted – haunted with memories, people, memories of people, haunted by impressions and depression. The voice of these poems is often distant and detached, yet a tenderness and empathy shines through. In “Weird Science” the narrator substitutes a pile of clothes for his absent lover next to him in bed, while “Dear Space” is a meditative piece about human frailty and finitude in the form of a letter to the cosmos. The section “Notes Passed to My Brother on the Occasion of His Funeral” is a powerful thirteen-part elegy for the poet’s deceased older brother. In it, the narrator grapples with grief, loneliness, despair and death.
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“You have not died yet. Instead,
you are walking down Thirteenth Avenue
drinking your coffee,
thinking about death.”
The subject of suicide is a recurring theme throughout the poems. The title of the collection is a reference to the Russian and Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who committed suicide in 1930. In the titular poem, the narrator muses on making a gun out of paper and pulling the trigger until it tears away. The last section, “On Earth” is a stunning and intense poem about the pain of continuing to live after those we have loved have died, whether from cancer, a car accident, or suicide. It is about the conflicting desires to give up and to continue living.
The poems in this collection seem to bleed into one another; similar themes, images, and motifs are interwoven throughout. In terms of form, the poems are all the same. This gives the collection a definite unity, but also a slight monotony. Still, Mayakovsky’s Revolver is a tenderly haunting collection by a strong, emerging young American poet.
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