CAConrad's A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon Reviewed at The Stranger

By Harriet Staff

The reviews are coming in for CAConrad's newest, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, just out from Wave Books (as if ya didn't hear). Paul Constant, writing for Seattle's The Stranger, remarks that Conrad's The Book of Frank might be "the closest a book of poems can come to a novel," whereas A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon "is more overtly about writing." As for its structure, Constant notes that "Afternoon is billed as 'New (Soma)tics,' and it's made up of a series of exercises that tie the act of writing to corporeality. Each exercise is followed by the poems that Conrad wrote using the exercise. Afternoon is an odd, often beguiling mixture of memoir, personal essay, poetry collection, and cheerleading session." Constant is not altogether thrilled:

[One] exercise involves stripping naked, affixing the string of a white balloon to your belly button with chewing gum ("WORK IT IN THERE"), and lying on the floor, staring at the balloon and thinking about how you were once connected to someone through your navel, how "you processed shit and other excretions through this, YOU LIVED THROUGH THIS HOLE WITH THE BALLOON NOW HOLDING ON! Take many notes."

The poems, unfortunately, are not entirely up to Conrad's standards. For every funny, confessional explosion ("your 45-minute/talk felt like/3 hours/i'm not a big/fan of similes/but it was/like listening to/Hedda Gabler/describe a/dental hygiene exam") or attention- seizing turn of narrative ("ammunition/amnesia/amnesty/in order of/appearance in dictionary"), there are two poems that feel strangely unfocused. Occasionally, the poems feel less like an image and more like a collection of words that have yet to be ratcheted down into something substantial. And sometimes, Conrad lets loose with an exhortation that feels like a self-helpy cliché: "Pause, hold your breath for a count of 4, then write with a FURY and without thinking, just let it FLOW OUT OF YOU, write, write, WRITE!... Take your notes POET, IT IS YOUR MOMENT to be totally aware, completely awake!" WOW!

But Constant does find that "[i]n the course of offering prompts and examples, Conrad reveals much of himself," and that "only the bravest readers are likely to follow Conrad's instructions...." Read the full review here.

ALSO! Poets & Writers named Afternoon one of the most essential books for writers, huzzah.

You might also see it to believe it (the book, and the poet). Conrad is currently on tour with Afternoon (as we noted, he's even reading at the washeteria!). Stay updated on his whereabouts.

Originally Published: March 20th, 2012
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