Death Loves a Drinking Game…
…& Before I Die I Want to Swim with Sharks is the latest in the Duel Book Series by Piscataway House Publications and The Idiom Magazine. A collaborative book (technically two books printed as one), this edition of the Duel Book Series takes you through a booze-fueled series of confessions, the type of anxieties that only spill out from a comfortable barstool after finishing a snifter of whiskey. Perhaps this is to say the poets, Ink Feindt and Keith Baird, are brave and willing to take risks, assuming that most of the poems in the collection weren’t written while intoxicated. But maybe it’s also to say too much gets said–I’ll explain in a little later. But first, it’s important to consider the range of these poems.
Intimate, surreal, hilarious, heartbreaking; Ink and Keith both touch the full spectrum of emotion, pulling from every end of their lives deeply personal moments and keen observations of the world around them. Keith, in Before I Die…, delves into the loss of loved ones, both living and dead. His melancholy never lets up. However, it’s equally matched with not a belief that the world is disappointing, but a wisdom that life can be sad, and a hopefulness that excitement and energy and passion sit patiently on whatever shores edge along the horizon–an adrenaline anticipation I can only imagine comes close to swimming with sharks.
Intimate, surreal, hilarious, heartbreaking; Ink and Keith both touch the full spectrum of emotionInk’s poems in Death Loves a Drinking Game are pulled less from the pit of his chest and more from his head. Delightful and witty lines like “Kissed a girl / drinking PBR; hated her taste / in beer in my mouth” satisfy as much as the more overtly shocking first stanza “A transexual Hello Kitty plushie / stole my little sister’s virginity” from the poem “Statutory,” all of which objectively display a strange world that Ink seems to be stuck in more than relates to. Rather, he acknowledges that life is as dirty as it is beautiful, that the flower is as much petals as it is rootball.
As said earlier, sometimes both poets say too much. They rationalize. They explain. It isn’t exactly poetic negligence on their parts, but given the opportunity, I would chop off some last lines or stanzas from poems that resolve too cleanly, where immense weight of the poem’s emotionality is thrown off the reader’s shoulders. And to truly connect with these poets, we need to bear their burden alongside them, to linger on their trouble with them like the friend inched up next to them at the bar.
At their best, Keith and Ink could almost be indistinguishable poets, like two sides of the same coin (or, aptly in this case, book). If not for minor distinctions in formatting, I would have found myself stupidly, drunkenly flipping to check the cover to figure out which half I was reading, which, if drunk on poetry is a good thing to be (I think so), makes this collection all more challenging and enjoyable.