Schuelke’s Poetry Has Room for Growth
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Hailing from Alpena, Michigan, Garrett Schuelke infuses the local bitter winds into his 2016 collection. The Bakunin Incorporated Reader is a very bleak work. Its opening piece, “Fuck Trotsky,” immediately sets the tone for the rest of the collection and in that regard the poetry is consistent.
“Waste Product” is one of the cleaner, more stream lined poems found in the collection. The way it has been edited satisfies the senses when read silently or aloud. In short, it is a well crafted vignette of despair.
There are moments of rancorous, witty insight which incite a quick bark of laughter but his piece, “Two Jehovah Witnesses,” was confusing and a bit off putting. The speaker of this poem meets one slightly older woman at a party hosted by Flavor Flav. The readers follow along as she engages in rebellious acts strictly condemned by her religion. Through no more than her initial pause to take part in a “…”Best Ho’s” competition…” the speaker is somehow able to deduce that she is or was a Jehovah’s Witness. As clearly as the speaker wants to engage with this woman sexually it is equally clear that he views her as lesser. The speaker states that she “..was dressed like a whore— the oldest, most experienced whore around. / The Ultimate Whore.” The lack of playfulness, of any kind of fun between these two characters brings to mind countless nights of one sided conversations at parties and bars.
Relief and a prayer of thankfulness are instinctively ignited when the speaker is unable to find the woman at night’s end, though he feels quite differently. “Unfortunately, I didn’t see her for the rest of the night,” he seems to sigh halfheartedly. This woman came to regale in herself, to drink, to feel sexually alive – it is heartening to think of her dancing somewhere, free.
In the second movement of the piece, the readers meet what perhaps was a younger version of the aforementioned woman. This younger college student is described as having “…short blond hair, and long legs. / Awesome legs. / She often wore short skirts and black leather high heel boots.” The speaker discovers that she is an evolution denier and is fully committed to this is way of thinking. Condescension swiftly envelopes the piece, and the odious implications of the poem’s close pull down at the corners of the mouth:
I remember these two Jehovah Witnesses and think
about the other few attractive, sexy, seductive Jehovah Witness women that are out there in the world.
If more come along, I will welcome them, but I am looking for something fresh and new now.
Female Mormons, here I come.
It is one thing to bemoan ignorance of scientific findings but it is another to take advantage of someone. In terms of poetic execution, the piece suffers from a lack of nuanced thought. The readers aren’t introduced to any new ways of thinking about religion or convinced that the speaker’s belief in atheism is better than any other philosophy floated among humans. The message of this poem is simple: The gullible are easily manipulated and I will use this to my favor.
Was the speaker trying to implicate religious leaders with this message or did the writer turn into the capitalistic opportunists he so despises when the indulgences of sex were on the line? It is up to the readers to investigate the text for an answer.
True compassion is only felt in one particular piece, “In the Undead Protest”. This prose poem illustrates the incredibly hard, yet necessary, ability of detachment learned by those who volunteer or work at animal shelters. The speaker’s sense of duty to pay his respects to “…Cory, the resident blind-and-deaf pug…” is admirable and the overall all sentiment of the poem carries a fragile, lovely melancholia. “The pups from before were gone, replaced with a new batch that weren’t mature enough to bite through / my jeans yet,” the speaker states in the final line. This closing echoes with the sadness of death but pokes a finger at the tempting joy of new life’s needle teeth.
Schuelke‘s work is not dull in any sense. It vibrates with political vigor and holds a deep appreciation for blues music, yet he would do well to study the works of W. R. Rodriquez and V. C. McCabe. These fellow malcontents, with their ability to harness the powers of both tempestuous fury and exhausted love, could perhaps help him grow as writer.
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