Review: Some Common Weaknesses Illustrated, by Carson Cistulli

In this month’s Bookslut, I review Carson Cistulli’s Some Common Weaknesses Illustrated:

¬†One of the book’s strongest features is its implicit commentary on American masculinity, especially in its adolescent and 20-something variants. Cistulli’s poems are sports-besotted, not with the usual lyrical extolling of, say, the slow time of baseball, or the jazzy flow of basketball, but, rather, with the media- and stats-filtered consciousness of the fan and the player. “Postgame Comments by Celtics’ Captain Paul Pierce as an Approach to the Creative Process” takes as its text an infamous comment by the Boston superstar wherein he compared basketball to war at a time when U.S. troops were fighting overseas. Cistulli splices in “poetry” for “basketball,” with good effect: “people don’t understand / the psychology of the poetry / I was just trying to / get my poetry fired up.” He also writes a series of prose poems for Jiri Welsch, an obscure NBA player, and has other poems that draw their key images from baseball, soccer, video games, and other activities of the 20-something male (the Welsch poem has my current favorite Matthew Arnold allusion: “After that, I read an account of someone’s normal day, except it’s written in Middle English. In it, some rather intelligent armies clash by night: no you are, Matthew Arnold!”). What’s striking about these moments is that they point up the way these activities structure the conversation of young men without being condescending about it. In effect, they treat sports, including fantasy sports and video games, as the natural stuff of poetry, which seems pretty reasonable.

Read the whole thing here.

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