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Alien vs. Predator (Poets, Penguin) Paperback – March 27, 2012
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"It's in his rhymes -- polysyllabic, serial, audacious -- that Robbins most resembles an M.C., and most distinguishes himself from other poets. He seems at least as interested in arranging sequences of identical vowel sounds as he is in getting consonants to agree. When he pairs 'Beckett' with 'cricket,' he sounds like Paul Muldoon, but when he rhymes 'Parkinson's,' 'Arkansas,' and 'dark clicks on,' he's channeling Jay-Z." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Robbins is abrupt, conversational, surreal, and sarcastic - a wiseguy with vulnerability. Many of his poems end on a note of sadness or despair in a way that suggests what preceded it was an attempt by the speaker to put on a brave front, to man up or gut it out. But it's a measure of how well-crafted Robbins' poems are that he does a good job of conveying just what's a put-on and what's meant to be taken seriously." -- Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
"Robbins's poetry is quick as thought, as Constance Rourke might have put it ... it might be more true to say Robbins's poetry is thought, or rather a mind alive but not thinking at all, a jumble of memory and stimuli and distractions and it's-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue, never mind, a roaring in the head of someone talking to someone else while what he's really doing is talking to himself, but barely listening, and having the time of his life."--Greil Marcus, The Believer
From the Back Cover
"You may notice the cultural references first -- Guns N' Roses, Eric B. & Rakim, Fleetwood Mac, M*A*S*H, Star Wars -- and be tempted to tie Robbins to these anchors. But there are as many contemporary references in Eliot and Pound and Horace as there are in Robbins: carbon-dating isn't what distinguishes these poems. Robbins works in traditional and nontraditional forms that pivot on the beat, which he turns around, seamlessly and ruthlessly. The thread here is a long-distance conversation crammed into the available enjambment, as charged as the pop songs that play beneath the words." -- Sasha Frere-Jones
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Top Customer Reviews
His use of language is playful and inventive, but it's also pretty nonsensical. If it wasn't for his frequent use of irregular rhyme, reminiscent of poems by Frederick Seidel (and the rhyme-happy influence of hip-hop), one might label him a "Language" poet. He has a similar raison d'etre. But he's much less serious than your average Language poet.
Which is a good thing. Unlike the Language poets I've read, Robbins is actually kind of funny. But his humor is not funny in any conventional sense. It's more absurdist humor, sometimes veering towards the juvenile (for instance, Robbins likes to throw in the word "penis" whenever at all possible). So if that's the kind of humor you like, you'll probably like this book.
But if you go to poetry looking for a communication of the poet's emotional life, you won't find it here (though I suppose you get some sense of Robbins' worldview). "Alien Vs. Predator" doesn't contain an ounce of genuine feeling. Instead, the poems are all hipster irony, all the time. And for me, that's not substantive enough to warrant serious attention.
That might be an uncool thing to admit, but that's the way I see it. And while it's probably true that these poems would fit your average hipster's definition of cool, I say, so what? Great poetry is not about artificial posturing, and while these poems are sometimes amusing, they're all style and no real substance.
First of all, Robbins as a person is abrasive, unkind, and frankly downright rude. He doesn't care about that, either--his opinion is that if you think he's a jerk, you're an idiot. (Watch any interview with him anywhere online, or check out his Twitter. So rude.)
Secondly, this book shows obvious lyrical prowess. His scansion and rhyming are pristine, his knowledge of classical works and writers is evident, and the presence of classical forms is marked.
Thirdly, he puts that knowledge and ability to horrible use. The poems are trite and pathetic. A thorough investment in pop culture doesn't automatically make one a smart person; in fact, quite the opposite--too much pop culture and not enough thinking (of which--invested thought--the poems are entirely devoid) makes one a perfect idiot. Any vapid teenager can rattle off a string of pop culture icons, and thus I am saying that any vapid teenager could write the bulk of these poems.
This book is a waste of cultural space.
The goose that laid the golden egg
Died looking up its crotch
To find out how its sphincter worked.
Would you lay well? Don't watch.
one to keep nice, and one to write your decodings, comments, notes and poems of your own.
Met a fork to poke the hounds
Pizzling on a burning oak.
Money makes the word go round--
Elephants cant take a joke.
Upper brachs never lack
Paradigms worth 20 scents.
Fallen sparrows pay no rent.
Elephants drop their pants,
Showing off pee Nile implants.
Money makes the birds go down.
Like that? Robbins did not write it. I did--a parody. Don't get mad, Mr. Robbins. Usually poets have to be dead, or at least old, to get parodied. If you like it,Reader,you'll love Robbins.
Michael Robbins is an allusionist. He pulls white Babbitts out of a red hat society meeting and dyes them blue. He takes snippits of everything from Bible references, schoolyard taunts, movies, rock bands,and shakes them, bakes them, breaks them up and glues them back together. Not haphazardly, mind you, but in a way that reveals new meaning. Take the cliche rebuke to a rude-seeming person, "Were you born in a barn?" In his "My Old Job" (page 9) Robbins calls on the reader to think, "Who was born in a barn--or manger?" His Learn'd Astronomer( page 31) finds love to be less than a Crackerjack prize.
Unless you've read the same books, listened to the same bands, bought the same products as Mr. Robbins has, you will find his collages of allusions to be puzzle-poems. They require decoding.
"A poem should not mean but be"
Excuses my obscurity.
There is help. There is Google. There is your friendly neighborhood librarian.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm still not sure what is going on with this poetry, but I really like it. There were a lot of references I caught to things like classic rock songs, and I'm sure I missed twice... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Charles Jones
I suspect that if you were to surreptitiously scramble the sentences from these poems and gave them back to the author to read publicly, he'd be none the wiser. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Justin Bronder
Fantastic. Can't wait for his next book.
Cleverly written with his references of pop culture and shocking metaphors. A new face for poetry has arrived.
First, he's stolen the title of a major motion picture to advertise his slim volume of poems.
A pedantic assemblage of obvious observations linked together does not a... Read more
An American wear-wolf in drag,
sporting a tie: a Winnebago full of dreams,
cascading down the highway,
toward an unknown station. Read more
Fun in the sun is better than fights every night. While science fiction poetry is sometimes rare these days, fictional poetry science is on a rampage. Read morePublished on December 20, 2013 by Gordon Hilgers