December 2003

Michael Farrelly


Sky Lounge by Mark Bibbins

There is a point in reading Mark Bibbins poetry that one begins to forget the poem and instead dwell within the speaker. We imagine worlds and places that are grounded at once in fantasy and again in dire reality. The very first poem of the entire book, "Just Yesterday" seems to project a world of the ancient past and a bleak future.

"Before prayer in the schools we had the Crusades
and we cleaned out the stockpot once a year...
Some told of a river that ran outside the city walls
and of how it moved to avoid their touch"

Bibbins does more than world build with suggestion like some poetic Philip Dick, he crests the wave of popular culture in ways that combine the standards and evoke more distant dreams.

"Dragging a blunt in his bedroom, a dashing bumboy dreams of David Bowie...He drinks booze like Bette Davis."

There is a comforting urban rythym to Bibbins writing, like scat poetry infused with hip hop rythyms while overdosing (a common theme of Bibbins) on Robert Pinsky.

The strongest work in the book, the Whore of Binghamton, is sexually charged yet totally innocent in its energy.

"Should I have been born a boy sling-shotting rats
and fingering girls like me down by the oil tanks
well maybe I was. I know all the secret spots.

I'll bad sister you by the airstrip and pull
and pull out the bullet with my teeth your finger
in the slit of my skirt will mean it then and so will I."

That fourth line from the end of the poem, "I'll bad sister you by the airstrip" stuck in my head for days. Calling poetry evocative is a bit like calling fiction remarkable, but here evocative sticks.

The poetry in Sky Lounge imagines damp basements, sticky fumblings and grass smoked under starlight. It's the stuff of early adolescance and the dull wanderings of middle age. This is the book to read if you think poetry is Kerouac and Beowolf and Yeats yearning for a higher light. The higher light here is sparked and glows only in the dark.

Sky Lounge by Mark Bibbins
Graywolf Press
ISBN: 1555973809
72 Pages