Monday, September 13, 2010

My Life as Adam : a review


My Life as Adam
by Bryan Borland
Sibling Rivalry Press
siblingrivalrypress.com


My Life as Adam is the debut full-length collection of poems by Bryan Borland. What a terrific collection it is: vignettes of Adam's youth through his twenties capturing the moments of realization of his own sexual identity, the grief over a lost brother, infatuations, repulsions, lusts, the struggles of living in a religious culture, and more. Growing up in Bible-belt Arkansas, it makes perfect sense for him to pick a biblical theme for his stories, and the flow of poems from one to another is like reading mini-books of a Bible of Adam, from his own Genesis to Revelation. (There are seventy poems, four more than the number of books in the Bible. But seventy is a biblical number.)

And reading them is also like experiencing vignettes of film.
After church we tore off our
starched-white buttons ups and felt
temptation circle baptism
like two oil-slicked gladiators.

Many of the poems are bittersweet. And some are sad, but some are funny. Speaking of the Bible, there must be a Levi:
I want to see Russia from your crotch.

This "book" of LEVI is no Leviticus, though.

Towards the end, he reveals his manifesto:
I want to write until my hands bleed,
metaphors and sestinas,
wipe the sweat from my forehead
then turn the salty dampness that lingers
into a sonnet
about your skin and my lips.

Indeed, there are metaphors with punch:
We’ve never seen glory holes, those Swiss bank accounts
     of gay passion.
Our lovers were never hung like disco balls, ...

and
While our wedding bands
are no leather hoods,
our ice cream shop
has served flavors
beyond vanilla.

I like this one (from MORNING COFFEE):
I missed you like summer
to a frostbitten
finger.

On the inconsonance of going through his twenties being gay in a red state:
In Arkansas, we worship at the club
on Saturday night. In Arkansas,
the blood of the lamb
is a gin and tonic. ...

We are reminded that Arkansas is not east or west coast:
Queer was a New York City thing.

This book certainly should be eaten up by gay poetry fans. But it is just good poetry for anyone to consume.


My Life as Adam is published by Sibling Rivalry Press
(siblingrivalrypress.com). Bryan Borland's website is at bryanborland.com.