The Dance of No Hard Feelings
by Mark Bibbins
Copper Canyon Press, $15 (paper)
To say that Mark Bibbins’s second poetry collection offers evidence that the American apocalypse has already happened (“caught in the camera phones / of our undoing”) might be an overstatement, but he’s deftly captured our current malaise. It’s a condition that has moved beyond apathy and despair into a chagrinned, isolating acceptance (“We still can’t know / anyone but we have a way of not minding not knowing”) where the easiest answer to any question is “whatever” and truth dissipates amid the media babble of “anchordorks.” How can anything of importance reach us when “Watching the news is like being / kissed by a sock puppet”? To make matters worse, environmental catastrophe, economic collapse, eroding civility, and legislative paralysis can’t obscure the inevitable fact of human mortality: “That which doesn’t kill us / is merely waiting. ” Bibbins has made “a decent living proving / negatives,” and his Ginsu wit and knack for outing the demons under our skin argue for cynicism as a form of enlightenment, as saving grace, or at least as the last weapon in the depleted arsenal of sanity. Implying that the consequence of acquiescence is the privatizing of public response, his associative, oblique technique becomes the perfect tableturning weapon against the culture of mass distraction. Bibbins’s oracular, concluding sequence, “The Devil You Don’t,” may not prove the poet has Old Nick’s number on speed dial, but odds are they’re friends on Facebook.