I’m just finishing Nick Flynn’s first collection of poems Some Etherwhich won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award in 2000The book is incredible, but I’m pacing myself a bit; each poem is a harrowing investigation into the ghosts of his early life (his mother’s suicide and the absence of his troubled and occasionally-homeless father). It’s rewarding but exhausting stuff.

His work can be both chilling and affectionate in turns, but the real achievement is in how Flynn turns these events, emotions, and memories into something so much more than just a tortured scrawl of words– and how each poem is a constellation of loosely connected feelings and images; he includes only the richest details so the space between them becomes haunted by their glow.

In his poem “Angelization,” for instance, the speaker observes the death of someone close to him. Flynn likens that person’s now-disembodied voice on an answering machine to the voice of a pilot recovered from a black box. Despite the astuteness of this moving conceit, there’s another seemingly-unrelated detail that, for me, gives the poem it’s gravitational (and physical) center:

… the day Richard left

a woman sat in the waiting room, balancing

a goldfish on her knee

in a knotted plastic bag. The woman

seemed hypnotized by reruns, the goldfish

circled, always surprised by

the bag, as if expecting the water

to simply go on & on.

There’s one of those “poetic” moments that feels its way in a few directions at once, like a resonance. Yeah, Flynn is great at ringing those blue notes.

[continued below]

Though I’ve not yet read his memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (which deals with the aforementioned family traumas), Focus Features has turned the true story into a film called Being Flynn starring Robert DeNiro (as Flynn’s father), Julianne Moore (as Flynn’s mother), and Paul Dano (as Flynn himself).

Below is the trailer, and below that is a video interview with Nick Flynn on the set of the film. Peep it.


 

Less than 100 words about Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 55 post in this blog.

Chris Robley is a poet and songwriter living in Portland, Maine after a decade in Portland, Oregon. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers, and was the recipient of the Maine Literary Award for "short works poetry" in 2014. Robley's music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.”