1. Daniel Bailey’s long poem “Hallelujah, Giant Space Wolf,” from his new book of the same title, is this dude at his finest, thirteen pages of his stare snapped on those Big Things, religion and existence, belief and human relations, and in true Bailey form, he has created this hunk of confession and feeling, one long blip that doesn’t worry about rests (won’t find any periods here), or where it moves, only that it is moving and never stopping until he’s expended all his self can muster.
2. The stepping stone into this poem has God’s name on it, that’s where he’s going, he’s stepping up, reaching up, jumping up. He says it: “I am fighting god again.”
3. Reminds me of that Modest Mouse song, from that scrappy lovely disc The Lonesome Crowded West, about “Cowboy Dan” (this Dan a little meaner, a little greedier perhaps than our friend Mr. Bailey, but definitely the running towards the fight with God similarity is evident here): “Goes to the desert, fires his rifle in the sky and yells ‘God if I have to die, you will have to die.”
4. But what’s really incredible about this poem is the emotion and how it explodes out uncontrollably and scurries around but it never feels like Bailey is giving us too much to handle at once or that its for any purpose besides expelling his true innards: “I have about a thousand emotions/and love is the spine of them all.”
5. Take this huge chunk, the second half of page one, where Bailey gets ramped up, where he challenges himself and us to rethink what we see as ourselves and possibilities and the earth and good things, a something he whittles away at for the whole twelve pages:
let us flood the earth with laughter tonight
let there be more juice about the earth tonight
let tonight be the earth’s rebirthday and let it be born
as something new and let it not remember its old life
let it be a fly
once when I was born I looked at the earth like a fly
at the bottom of the ski-lift of ceaseless miracles
when I am young and getting younger I could be
a maggot that loves the entire earth, that can only love
and look at the earth with its love and say “I love you”
in a small fly voice
tourists of the future, where are you
we are breaking bread over the volcano
do you sleep through the world’s disasters?
uh huh, I sleep through the good things too
6. And he goes from there, ruminations of what it means to exist and belief and not belief and die. Battles with Jesus, this Giant Space Wolf, a “you” that seems to change but hold a cup with some valuable juice to quench what. And the best way I can describe it is attacking, bursting, busting, these extreme words basically meaning “to leak” but where at the end it is major huff and puff tired. What I’m saying is, this poem shreds itself, its man, until exhaustion in its many forms.
7. What is it about graduating college, or even just being in college, that makes young adults tackle their beliefs majorly, shouting into the sky, walking around for hours looking/thinking/turning their hands over, crying why? At least a dozen of my friends went through some spiritual switch battling their Christianity and plopping into some sort of Agnosticism/Atheism during college and I see their stories in this long poem, see their inner spirits slapping for a heavenly one:
mine eyes have seen the glory, as they say
and it always rides away in the form of some disappointed child
on earth, before all of this, I remember staying up late
walking to the bathroom, brushing my teeth
washing a line of ants down the basin of the sink
and then going to sleep and not thinking about it
I feel like a vulture who does not wait for death to prepare his meal
8. This poem is a collection of those moments of untrapping oneself from the snare of blind faith, unpacking the feelings and actions and thoughts of those days, dictating the what ahead.
9. Sure, here here here is a complaint I hear about Bailey’s style, some of that unpacking can get messy and a little wild. But that’s fucking life, man. And poetically, there’s so much goodness here, too, where the emotion bends into this poem shape. Form is function highly highly here. It wanders because it is the wandering (also the wondering).
10. Reading this poem reminded me of my favorite of Bailey’s Drunk Sonnets, Number 14, which begins “IF ANYONE KNOWS WHAT IS GOING ON EVER THEN HEY/I AM HERE IT WOULD BE NICE TO TALK SOMETIME” and ends “GOD IS LIKE BONO—SOME DICKWAD NO ONE WILL EVER MEET OR LIKE.” That poem as it moved between those two fences trying to know what the fuck is up (i.e. be happy) and dealing with this umbrella called God that is supposed to help meet that goal. And this long poem seems to be Bailey going after that same help in knowing what is going on, or at least figuring out what to do with the fact that it might not be possible/God might really be a dickwad.
11. I love the booming spirit of this poem, even when covered in worry and maybe fear, the nerve to accuse, assume, wonder: “don’t think of life in terms of right and wrong/because what is the second coming if not a terrorist attack.” Yeah, this is contradicting, where much of the rest of the poem seeks loving and human compassion (doing right?) to battle this big opponent. Point is, admirable is Bailey’s willingness to speak through all the ugliness of doubt, through the bitter feelings, and have that blasting glimmer of hope.
12. It’s not always about just fighting God though. The loving and the compassion, it’s a true concern here. Sad drops of that we’re-all-connected idea, like “for every baby that’s born/there are two people who want a baby/but will never have one” and “the best compliment you can give anyone is/‘I hope you don’t die today’/because you are with them/and that should not be taken away,” are the bits of that control I was talking about, where another weapon of human nature, that downward gaze to the other living heads around us, gets revealed and the poem shines a little brighter, maybe in hope, but most certainly in sincerity.
13. At the top of the last page, for all the pondering and wondering and talking, Bailey has seemed to come to terms with moving beyond higher thinking to this self-decision of going with the feeling, as how to dictate one’s own life:
you will die eventually anyway
if I am unhappy
if I am happy
then I am that too
I cannot possibly understand this thought that is life
which is why I am done thinking
it is all feeling from now on
the crying, etc.
14. Seen that happen so much, good or bad, people wanting to know why loving, pursuing happiness, being a feeling being is not enough. And as Bailey makes clear earlier in the poem, that way you’ll die to, like all other ways of thinking/being, but you’ve moved (beyond?) and at least you’ve been this flailing ball of realness when you’ve reached the other end of life (heaven, hell, nothing, giant space wolf), in life or in long poem.
Buy this book from Mammoth Editions. It’s good, really good, big bold and booming.