Book Review: Balloon Pop Outlaw Black

Balloon Pop Outlaw Black, by Patricia Lockwood

I must admit I’m not a particular fan of the author’s writing from what I had previously read, but this book of poetry is at least passable.  It is quirky and at least moderately intriguing contemporary poetry [1], and that has to count for something.  This book of poetry does not exactly have a high bar to clear, and it is not something that is going to be truly compelling to those who have read genuinely wonderful contemporary poets, but at the same time this book at least has some good reason to exist.  It is worth appreciating as a modest collection of passable lines with entertaining titles.  And as someone who reads a fair amount of poetry that is something worthwhile.  This book does not actively waste one’s time even if it is not a book that is likely to have any sort of lasting success, as those who read it in future decades as something kitschy and a bit try-hard.  There are worse things to be, though, so this book does not inspire any sort of massive hostility or hatred on my part.  The book is rather sort of there and you can read it and shrug at it and get some mild amusement out of a few of the poems, perhaps.

This short book of poems is less than 100 pages and consists of three sections that are given the titles of their three large opening poems, followed by shorter poems with quirky titles.  The first section is titled “When We Move Away From Here, You’ll See A Clean Square Of Paper Where His Picture Hung,” which deals strangely with Popeye the sailor man.  The second section of the book is titled:  “The Cartoon’s Mother Builds A House In Hammerspace,” and the third book of the title is given the mercifully short title of “The Quickening.”  As one can imagine, the book is full of quirky inside pop culture references, and some of the poems have genuine wit like “Fig. 1” and “The Front Half And The Back Half Of A Horse In Conversation” and “The History Of The House Where You Were Born.”  It is clear that the author was viewed fondly by at least some magazines who published her poem, but one wonders what sort of context these poems are best to be appreciated in, given that they are clearly not as good as the best of poems that are written right now.

In many ways I’m not the best person to appreciate a book like this.  As a contemporary poet myself, my own inspiration is in far classier works that demonstrate intellectual depth and thinking about what is timeless and lasting.  This selection of poems, and nearly everything I have read by this poetess, is focused on being trendy and decadent, and as we are on very different sides of the approach of contemporary poets to the particular time and culture we are in, this book is not very appealing to me.  That said, it is not at least an active waste of my time.  There are some poems I appreciate at least mildly and more than a few lines that demonstrate the author has some talent at stringing together words in interesting ways, so there is that.  If you have a high degree of fondness for poetry that is deliberately quirky and self-consciously odd and that tends to slavishly follow contemporary social trends, you very well could like this book of poetry quite a great deal more than I did, but as for me, I neither love nor hate this book to any great degree.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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