The Day the World Ends
The nice folks at Broadway Paperbacks, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, are working hard to market Ethan Coen’s new volume of poetry The Day the World Ends–and no wonder, because as far as I can tell, his intended reader is male, and that’s a little bit of a niche audience for poetry. Moreover, his intended reader is easily amused by term like “ass-upward,” which he uses over and over in his poem “My Epitaph.” And although I am a big fan of the TV show South Park–so you know I can enjoy scatological humor–this much scatalogical poetry struck me as …a bit too much.
Because I liked his previous volume, The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way, I responded positively to an email offering me a copy of this new volume and another copy to give away. As it turns out, while I don’t regret having read these poems once, this is not a volume I particularly want to keep and reread (especially not at this point in our library renovation project), so I have two volumes to give away if you care to leave your email address in the comments.
But first let me tell you more about the poems in this volume. Some of them are very short. There are several pages of raunchy limericks, and a few scatalogical ones:
“Old O’Sheen was appalled to awake
To discover the nocturnal brake
On his kidneys and bowel
Had thrown in the towel
To leave him with what those things make.”
From the three pages of funny epitaphs, this is my favorite:
“He flossed each day—his teeth were clean.
Each day he prayed—his soul was pure.
Lord, help us know what it might mean:
His soul is gone; his teeth endure.”
Others look like typical examples of contemporary free verse, only slighter:
On Seeing Venice for the First Time
Seeing Venice for the first time really makes a guy sit down
Boy, you think.
Boy, this Venice.
Been here a long time.
Water lapping stone steps.
In my khakis.
(Kind of dank.)
Whole human thing.
Gotta think this through a minute.
You know, I started reading this volume with a charitable attitude, wanting to like at least a few of the poems in it. I had to work to find a few examples of things I liked. And then when I sat down to write about the volume, even the bits I liked struck me as less comic.
As the poet himself says, it’s hard to tell what’s missing from this volume:
“Just what it is
Just isn’t clear.
It’s not what’s missing,
Not what’s here….”
Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for these poems. If you think you might be more amused by them, leave a comment anytime before midnight on Sunday, April 29 and you’ll be entered in the drawing for the giveaway. Winners will be announced on Monday, April 30.