The Boulder Bookstore hosts a monthly Living Poets Poetry Book Club. Recently, we have read books that I have particularly enjoyed. We tend not to pick post-modern experimental poets, but go more for narrative and lyrical ones.
Most recently, we read Some Ether by Nick Flynn. This collection is raw and personal, with many poems about his mother, who ultimately committed suicide, and a few poems about his father, an alcoholic, homeless and not there for Flynn.
Call these poems “confessional,” based on Flynn’s life, but call them strong, moving and controlled. Here's my take on a few of them.
Take the opening poem, “Bag of Mice” – well-placed as it sets the tone and subject matter. It makes one want to read on. Likewise, the first line of the poem – I dreamt your suicide note – is such that one has no choice but to move to the next line, and the next and the next.
Another poem, entitled “1967,” consists of one or two- line stanzas that, at a cursory reading, might not seem to relate. But if the reader pauses a moment, she can see the connections from line to line – night to darkness to light to smoking to dying to vanishing to strength to tragedy to the Greeks. In this poem, again, the mother-thread is subtlety sewn.
“Radio Thin Air” draws on information outside the poet’s life, referring to Marconi and the Titanic, broadening the personal reference.
The poem, “Sudden” held special significance for me, given the sudden death of my father when I was a little girl. The poem illustrates how a poet’s personal story, when told in an artful way, with image and fresh language, can resonate with the reader, connect to the universal.
In “Other Meaning,” about a car ride, the poem travels and makes a sharp turn at the end, like a knife in the reader’s heart.
In addition to this book of poetry, Nick Flynn has written a memoir, entitled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which is more focused on his father. The movie, Being Flynn, starring Robert de Niro as the father, is worth seeing. The movie portrays Flynn’s mother somewhat differently, or perhaps simply not in as much complexity, as does the book of poetry.
I highly recommend reading Some Ether and seeing the movie. Reading the memoir is on my to-read list.