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"Today The Headbutt Is A Sign Of Friendship, Stability, And Inner Calm..."
on February 24, 2010
Tao Lin's poetry is an absurdist invitation to depression. "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy" is a largely free verse (there are intermittent bursts of rhyme and meter, making it more difficult to pigeonhole) documentation of Lin's seemingly depressed psyche. Frequently employing repeated images such as hamsters with numerous emotional afflictions, and headbutts as methods of social intercourse, the book is highly disjointed, an effect that heighten's Lin's existential, nihilistic yet smug poetic self-loathing.
Although appreciating originality, I did not have great affectation for Lin's writing style and homage to E. E. Cummings. No capitalization or punctuation may work in a short poem like "i know at all times that in four hours i will feel completely different"[sic] (pp. 54-55), but not on a gigantically long and rambling monstrosity as is found on pp. 84-101, which not only bears no title or coherence, but also admits "i forgot what this poem was about"[sic] on p. 90. This is probably closer to the truth than Lin would like to admit.
I loved some of Lin's odd phrasings and think he has great talent and a bright literary future. This volume left me wanting more. Angst-filled hamsters may very well be great subject matter for a collection of poetry, but this volume comes across more as a collection of personal hangups scribbled in unedited form in a conscious attempt to subvert every formal poetic methodology known to western literature.