Jack Ross, ed.: brief 29 (April 2004)
Mark Pirie, Dumber (Poems). Wellington: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2003. ISBN 1-86942-029-2. 64 pp. RRP $16.95.
Mark Pirie: Dumber (2003)
I’m extremely sympathetic to the idea of this book, at any rate as announced on the back cover blurb: “Mark Pirie’s new collection laments that our culture is getting ‘dumber’ and thus presents poems that are both parodic and purposely ‘dumb’.” I think that’s a gutsy plan. What’s more, I think it’s a plan that Pirie is well-equipped to carry out. He has the ability and (it seems) the will-power to do it. Dumbness is fascinating. It’s perhaps the topic in the world of Jackass, Survivor (and Shock & Awe). Unfortunately, I don’t really feel that he’s succeeded, and I suspect the main reason is haste. He’s now published six collections of poems and one of short stories in as many years, and that’s a pretty phenomenal rate of production for anyone, even a writer as energetic as Pirie (he’s also been running JAAM and building up a formidable contemporary poetry list through HeadworX in the same period – not to mention working fulltime). So no, I can’t give the present volume my vote of approval. The cover is clearly meant to recall one of those City Lights books of old: Howl, or Kaddish, or Lunch Poems, but this reads more like a group of odds and ends which have accumulated since the publication of his last. There’s some funny stuff in there, some lyrics as good as anything in his other books, but it fails to cohere. Longer pieces such as the dialogue “Love” seem to meander off after a promising beginning. In the end, I fear this was a wasted opportunity. That still leaves an essential job there to be done – by Mark, or someone similarly enterprising …