Gabriel Gudding's A Defense of Poetry is a work of absolutely mad absolute genius. Inflationary language perhaps but the book sure pumped air into my bellows.

This is the first book in a while that completely entertained and absorbed me, instead of merely boring and alienating me. A Defense of Poetry is already in my "special handful": the 10 or 20 books i would insist on having on the proverbial midocean desert isle. I could not help but laugh out loud at many points (e.g., the piece about a peacock's rectum).

Gudding's book displays an INCREDIBLE range of emotion: anger, sadness, and wonder as well as the humor everyone else is so quick to point out.

The blurbs on the book are much too guarded for this book. Gudding makes Edson look like a complete simpleton, and he's not. Well, maybe he is, at least in comparison (I met Edson in 1998 and we talked for 10 minutes about mirrors; he had a glazed look in his eye and I wondered if it were simply for effect).

Jesus, Gabe. I am absolutely shocked that anyone gave him an award for this book. It is coarse, crass, and frequently disturbing. It skirts the lines of what makes good and bad poetry at every turn (which I like immensely). It is great, but not the kind of great that is usually recognized by awards committees. It is something other.

Gudding's book has filled me simultaneously with marvel and jealousy.

Here's a sample:

For the train-wrecked, the puck-struck,
the viciously punched,
the pole-vaulter whose pole
snapped in ascent.
For his asphalt-face,
his capped-off scream, God bless
his dad in the stands.
For the living dog in the median
car-struck and shuddering
on crumpled haunches, eyes
large as plates, seeing nothing, but looking,
looking. For the blessed pigeon
who threw himself from the cliff
after plucking out his feathers
just to taste a failing death. For
the poisoned, scalded, and gassed, the bayoneted,
the bit and blind-sided,
asthmatic veteran
who just before his first date in years and years
swallowed his own glass eye. For these and all
and all the drunk,

Imagine a handful of quarters chucked up at sunset,
lofted into the ginkgos--
and there, at apogee,
while the whole ringing wad
pauses, pink-lit,
about to seed the penny-colored earth
with an hour's wages--
As shining, ringing, brief, and cheap
as a prayer should be--

Imagine it all falling

into some dark machine
brimming with nurses,
nutrices ex machina--

and they blustering out
with juices and gauze, peaches and brushes,
to patch such dents and wounds.

- "One Petition Lofted into the Ginkos," from Gabriel Gudding's A Defense of Poetry. I do wish the poem ended with "Imagine it all falling" but nevertheless it is a masterful, funny, heartbreaking, and inventive poem that refuses to flaunt its hipness.

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