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by Aaron Belz
Persea Books, $15.95 (paper)
If comedy, as Lenny Bruce suggested, is the only honest art, then Aaron Belz is America’s sincerest poet. In Glitter Bomb, his fourth collection, Belz undoes the notion that humor must come second to big ideas and the illumination of truth in poetry. Like Lydia Davis, he delights in blurring the line between literary form and joke. One poem, “Trees,” reads in its entirety: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say / There’s no such thing as trees.” Or take, for example, “Ice Cream”: “I scream, you scream, we all scream / when we get stabbed in the heart.” These joke-poem hybrids challenge form by suggesting that the comedy is the poem, not just serving it. Even the more recognizably poetic pieces refuse to be taken too seriously. “No Vacancy,” an Ashberian jumble of puns and overheard dialogue, concludes with the question, “Cryptic much?” (Any number of contemporary poems could end this way.) One shivers with glee to imagine a young Belz in a college writing workshop, turning in a piece such as “Tuberculosis Day”: “The acronym / we’re going to use / for Tuberculosis Day / is TBD.” “Well,” his classmates might say, “It’s funny, but is that it?” Yes, that is it. It is all you need.
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