Wow. If I had to choose one word to describe Notes from the Bonfire, it would be “raw.” Author Matt Nagin did an excellent job of putting the pandemic into poetry.
(real quick–here’s a link to my vlog)
These poems, while not all of the poems are explicitly linked to the pandemic, the vast majority are. Nagin expertly captures the panic, the fear, the resignation that many of us have felt throughout the past year. Some poems have some sarcasm, others have some sardonic humor, and others are just emotional.
You can tell that Nagin put a lot of thought and feeling into these poems, like in “Death to Matt Jr.” or “Still Life With Mom.” These poems are so personal and emotional–it’s like you’re in the car to the clinic, hearing the silent sobs of guilt, of promising to do better. Or you’re in the hospital room, praying for the best all while fearing (and expecting) the worst.
Then there are the poems like “Postcard,” where fictional (possibly) Jerry is actually having a pretty okay beginning to the pandemic and you’re just kinda sitting there like “Dude, you’re my friend, but I can’t even with your positivity about your diet.”
And poems like “We Go On,” where you know things are tough, but you also know that things pass, it’s just a matter of when and waiting for that to happen.
It’s so good!
Nagin just captured so many people’s experience, all while being vulnerable and sharing his own with us readers. The vulnerability of poetry is something that I love, and even in one self-reflective poem, Nagin touches on–
Anyone who writes poetry today
has got to be a delusional asshole
or a hopeless lunatic,
someone who runs entirely on faith
someone who just no longer
gives a damn
Like how great is that?? It’s possibly one of my favorite poems because in this beautiful, snarky, self-deprecating way, Nagin hits on that imposter syndrome that I think a lot of us writers experience. All while validating that poetry is a real, emotive, personal work. And for all those people who are like “I don’t like poetry,” “I can’t write poetry,” you can. You might be crazy to do it, but you can.
It’s so good, I definitely recommend this collection of pandemic-plus poems. It is very emotionally evocative, but it’s a nice little opportunity for catharsis too.
That’s all I’ve got for now! Be sure to look out for next week’s posts on