The Operating System

4th Annual NAPOMO 30/30/30 :: Day 17 :: Damon Ferrell Marbut on Andrew Faulkner

Need Machine [Coach House Books, 2013] is a small book of poems I loved immediately. The first two poems seemed as though one were observing a track sprinter stretch before the gun fires. But from The Lobby (beginning with “The Holiday Inn sign issues the kind of light you inhale through a dollar bill”) on, it is quickly apparent what Faulkner is capable of accomplishing. A true “wow” poem for me is Don’t Forget The Tent Pegs, seen below:
Low, stubbled hills. My boots
sweep the brush.
The air kicked like a dog.
When birds perch on a slipstream
I think, I know what animal I am.
I’ve made an orange scrub-scoured
tent my home. At night, shadows rise
like Whac-A-Moles and when they do
I name them what they are: orange
porcupine, jar of orange pencils, shrub.
In the tent, I’m an island and everything on it:
Mosquitos. Dead citrus tree. Lemonade
stand. A long-beached whale
repurposed as a hut. At times I step in and wear
the bones like skin. Except they’re bones,
and when it rains I wonder where it is
my skin has gone. Is this what it’s like
to be wet inside?
I had a physical reaction to most of his poems. It helped in that I read them slowly. I found so many different worlds scattered amongst the lines and stanzas, so many things to guess about and happily analyze. After reading a few pieces I set down the book and paced the room for a while, and at some point (after jotting down favorite lines of his) I wrote on a notepad “he’s a genius.” And I thought it because his work was making me feel like I’d found something no one else knew about. It made me feel like my friends and I did in graduate school when we were assigned certain mainstream poets, but then we’d go to an indie bookstore later and find an astounding collection we could claim as our own. I miss that experience, so many years removed now, but Faulkner’s work—again, because I took time with it—became motivation in my own writing to respect the things occurring in my life and document them in poetry form because it’s so damn necessary.
Here is another shorter poem, Hangover, to share my perspective:
Outside is a wet cigarette. Last night is
half ash, half scrambled porn.
I put what where? There’s a dead rat
in my mouth. Teeth fuzzy,
fermented, near-victims of a flood
hauled up sputtering and waterlogged.
The morning crackles like the desert
between stations on the AM dial.
The stock market is one thing,
an op-ed on abolishing the penny another.
There’s a recession lurking somewhere.
I’m out of Advil. I can’t think of what to give up first.
Faulkner’s work also helped me return to a certain creative headspace I’d largely neglected after a pair of years working on different projects and exploring styles in writing as well as subject matter. His poems make me feel grounded and comfortable because there is disillusion in them, exploration, unsentimental heart, wordplay and similes and metaphors that challenge convention, and because my mind operates this way the poems gave me a sort of home on the page. My favorite writers have this in common, that I feel I’m given a place to ride along and not just invited to observe.
I can’t recommend Andrew Faulkner’s Need Machine highly enough. It’s one of three poetry collections read in recent years that were so fine I couldn’t resist contacting the poet and telling them personally how good I think they are. I feel causing a reader to spring to action, or reaction, any sort of motion borne of words that dance and haunt and empower, that’s the mark of a writer doing his/her finest.
[textwrap_image align=”left”][/textwrap_image]DAMON FERRELL MARBUT is a Southern poet and novelist who lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. Author of the critically-acclaimed coming-of-age novel Awake in the Mad World, he also penned the Amazon bestselling poetry collection Little Human Accidents. His second book of poems, Human Crutches, is currently being considered for a Stonewall Award. His poems “Apartment 5E” and “My Original Blueprint” appeared in The Operating System’s PRINT: VOL.3, in 2013, and we’re thrilled to have him back for this series. You can contact and follow Damon via his author page here.
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