In February of this year, H_NGM_N Books released Matt Hart’s Debacle Debacle. In some sense, the book can be read as the experience of working through contradictory thoughts and feelings.
To this extent, poems near the beginning of book guide the reader by setting the conceptual and poetic framework for the rest of the collection. In “Upon Seeing Again The Thriving,” the speaker informs the audience that “Life is so messy,” and:
yes, I do feel
terrible at times, like a fuck-up descending a staircase,
woozy with nectar and too much trouble. Frustration
I get, and discouraged I get. (20)
Likewise, in the title poem, the speaker reiterates similar claims when he states: “Positivity these days // is difficult to come by” (14). But in the face of frustration and discouragement, when filtering the world through a positive lens can oftentimes be difficult, Hart’s poems seek to do just that.
Of course, the poems of Debacle Debacle don’t do this by embracing affirmation uncritically. Instead, they do so by meditating on complex emotional circumstances of our daily lives; or, as Hart writes at the conclusion of the title poem:
it’s my job to say so. It’s our job to express it, expand it
to the edges. Essential it is to struggle, but struggle’s
merely tension, and tension can be a thing of balance
or irritation, confusion or song. I’m singing in tension
with the not singing. I’m living in tension with the forces
out to kill me. We’re living in tension because we’re
different human beings, and living in excitement
that we’re so much the same. (15)
Debacle Debacle, then, harnesses this tension between the joy and struggle to both sing and not-sing as an expression of a life lived poetically.
Hart’s poems succeed the most when they yoke these tensions of life so as to produce “an ambiguous noise” (30) wherein one cannot necessarily tell which feeling the poem expresses, or, to this extent, whether it’s song or not-song. The poem “Fang Face” echoes these sentiments in its closing lines:
I hate the way stories
seem to love a conclusion. I love
the bird’s singing just before it gets eaten. (25)
The excerpt contains both “love” and “hate,” the song of a bird and its grizzly death, and a reproach of conclusions in its conclusion. By oscillating between these binary poles, Hart doesn’t offer didactic verse, but rather “expressive works… // …about the way the artist feels and thinks” (73). And this artist, it seems, thrives in the possibilities and tensions that a poem with open emotional and sonic registers offers us.