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One of the first poems in Megan Boyle’s debut collection selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee is called “everyone i’ve had sex with.” The last poem in the collection is called “lies i have told.” Besides the lack of capitalization, what makes Megan Boyle’s poetry fascinating is that readers will often find themselves questioning where the line between fact and fiction is to be drawn, and also whether to laugh or cry. With these poems, Megan Boyle has taken stream-of-consciousness writing to an entirely new level, and she has done so brilliantly.

I finished this book a few days after I received my review copy in the mail, but have been hesitant to write about it. I have Googled Megan Boyle dozens of times since then, always hoping some new source of information will have appeared by then to answer all of my questions, but this has not happened. Though this book did not leave me desiring, it did leave me wondering. Who is the narrator of these poems? How am I supposed to feel?

For the first few pages, I was unsettled. Then, as if I’d never been out of it, I fell into the rhythm. Aside from the lack of capitalization, these is an openness in these poems, or entries, that is hard to find in many other places. Richard Yates is frequently mentioned, and sex, and depression. The title will lead prospective readers to think this is a humorous book, which it certainly is. I smiled very often; laughed a few times, even. A few words later, I would begin questioning my life’s purpose.

Boyle’s writing is candid, unafraid, confrontational, insecure. The trouble with stream-of-consciousness writing is that it is revised, refined, and often loses the spontaneous energy that is originally present. Making the assumption that this collection has gone through countless rounds of revision, that is one quality that makes this book triumphant. One line leads to another and each separate thought is so random and distinct from the previous one yet connected because one came before the other.

A unique story is told here, by a new writer who has an incredibly unique style. In the poem/entry “2.14.09,” Boyle writes, “what is ‘being in love,’ are the feelings present when i feel like i am ‘in love’ of the same quality and quantity that other people feel when they are ‘in love?’ if i was never told there was something i needed called ‘love’ would i feel like i need to have it?” In the following poem, “2.16.09,” Boyle writes, “i hope cats can’t die of a catnip overdose.” Often, from one poem to the next, Boyle’s tone switches from sickeningly sarcastic to almost unbearably sad, and the reader would not be able to make the transition so many times if Boyle did not do it so seamlessly.

selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee is a memorable collection of poems by a young woman with an extreme amount of potential and promise. Many people will misunderstand this book. It is not difficult to do so. But, given time, the words unfold, burrow, and sustain.

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Robby Auld Robby Auld is a 17-year old book blogger. When not doing homework, he enjoys drinking coffee, reading books beyond his comprehension level, and writing. He lives in Massachusetts and can be found at http://robertauld.blogspot.com.

12 responses to “Review of selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee, by Megan Boyle”

  1. Lenore says:

    go Robby, get your money.

  2. D.R. Haney says:

    Jesus, man, they’ll let anybody into this joint.

    I’m kidding, Robby. Glad to see you here.

  3. Caleb Powell says:

    “Lack of capitalization” does not make poetry “fascinating.”

    • Robby Auld says:

      In your opinion, that is. Every reader can find a different fascination in a single poem. The lack of capitalization happened to be something I felt captivated by, so I wrote about it. It fascinated me.

  4. Caleb Powell says:

    If that’s where you want to set the bar, fine, but this isn’t Amazon. If you really find such poems fascinating, lucky for you, there are millions more out there. Oodles of poets have experiemented with this aesthetic over years, most of them imitators, and these days the wannabe poets copy someone they admire. It’s transparent.

    Have you heard of e.e. cummings? Are you familiar with how this trend picked up in the mid 20th century? Does this form really subvert or stun anymore?

    If you want to review, fine, but if you want to review competently, familiarize yourself with the history and context of your subject matter. Or, if you prefer, just read and marvel.

  5. Caleb Powell says:

    You know, that being said, now that I’ve read your bio I see that you are 16. Hmm…in that case, I damned well should lighten up, you’re way further along than I was at 21, not to mention my teenage years. Keep on reading and writing.

    • Robby Auld says:

      The transparency fascinates me in its own way, because it takes effort even to copy, to create something that has already been created yet place some version of a facade over it so that it appears unique. Every form stuns me, because then there is the question of why each trend picked up, and why it continues to do so. You’re correct in saying that this isn’t Amazon, though. This is The Nervous Breakdown.

      I apologize that you find my review incompetent, regardless of my age.

  6. Caleb Powell says:

    I’m not sure. It takes effort to create, and that is diminished by copying. Playing a cover song is easier than writing a good song. Playing 12-step blues is easier than playing Maple Leaf Rag. Copying is the realm of the permorming artist or beginner. Oft the poet will abide by the “poetry is theft” motto, and learn to disguise their influences. But if a poet admires a handful of poets that write a certain way, and then he/she writes that way, and this is obvious, it is a lack of originality and a reason to dismiss the poem/writing. There’s nothing wrong with being influenced by writers, but that’s not the same thing. Hey, I can’t backtrack on my attack of the review, it did seem in line with a novice/young writer, but it shows that you’re thinking, and I apologize for coming across as I did. Anyone intellectually curious, as you seem to be, is off to a good start, and that should be encouraged.

    Take care,

    Caleb

    • sammiejoe says:

      Maybe not, Calbet, Maybe not. Just maybe Robby shouldn’t be reviewing anything. There is a certain arena in which the “young” are considered precocious and we are to believe “from the mouths of babes” comes startling or endearing or illuminating insights. To which I reply, “harumph.”

      There are few “youth” who should be reviewing anything. Mostly, they should be learning and keeping their mouths shut until they know enough to say something worth hearing. I find the potage of “poetry” from Megan Boyle not only unremarkable, but distinctly protean, lacking in anything original or truthful. Reminded me mostly of the vacuous and unmemorable ramblings of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City whereby someone with absolutely nothing to say said it. And only New Yorkers and those who are wanna-be New Yorkers thrill to that kind of “writing”. Writing, real writing, and real poetry is easily seen and known, and this ain’t it. Robby, I suggest you go read a few hundred books, all the poetry in the dusty part of the library, and then come back and say something. Until then, you are just indulging yourself.

      • Robby Auld says:

        Sammiejoe, I’m glad you came and commented here. I’m not sure how to respond. I’m both fascinated by this comment and appalled. You seem to have taken the old school approach to learning, which I have no interest in being part of. Whether or not I have something to say that is worth hearing is not something that can be set in stone, because while you may think what I have to say is naive, and you are likely not the only one, there will be others who do not feel the same way. I reviewed Megan Boyle’s poetry because I did find it remarkable and, if protean, I was interested in exploring that. If I’m throwing myself under the bus here, which I may be, I will allow myself to say that I enjoy S&TC very much. Writing, REAL writing, and REAL poetry, are not easily seen and known, because the perspective is again grounded in opinion, and my opinion is “young.” That does not make yours any more legitimate than mine, though, which may be where we’ll disagree.

        I’m not sure this comment is of much value. I realize entirely that I am not as educated or experienced as nearly all of the other contributors here, but I love a good book, and I love writing about books, and this has become an outlet for me, a community I’ve had the good fortune to become a part of. Writing reviews here, I’ve certainly opened myself up to a large portion of scrutiny, and this is a sliver of that. It will continue throughout my life, likely. Also, I’m aware this is not the greatest review I have ever written. What keeps me going is wondering when I will.

        I would love to go and read a few hundred books. That is the plan actually. And I’m sure I am indulging myself by doing this, a 16-year old writing book reviews for an online magazine. But I was asked to begin doing this, so maybe I’m not the only one indulging.. Harrumph.

        • Caleb Powell says:

          Sammiejoe – Calbet? Hmm…okay, I’ve been called worse. Your points are well taken. To qualify, based on Robbie’s review he doesn’t have any business writing AND being taken seriously. But part of the goal to be taken seriously is to put your neck out there and open yourself up to criticism. Robbie did this gracefully enough, and is on the path to being a writer.

          Robbie – I haven’t read Megan’s book, but from the excerpts and “hype” it seems pretentious and imitative, a bad book and one that should be ignored and forgotten. Tao Lin possibly could have “written” it for all we know. Your review makes no case for it, in my opinion, and is an example of Internet-buttkiss-Taolicophant posturing. Wait ten years, read good literature, and see if Megan’s book still makes your list of good reads. I imagine you’re going to evolve fast and strong, and you’ll question your motivations for writing the review. Maybe I’m wrong.

          I think Tao Lin is one of the few writers who can actually be classified as “objectively” bad. His entire package may be fascinating, the fallout can provoke thought, but it’s a literary car wreck. Those who imitate him are beyond “objectively” bad, and they should be excoriated and exposed.

          • Robby Auld says:

            Caleb, consider this me putting my neck out there. If anything, I find this entire conversation pretentious and bottomless. I’m not entirely sure what you and Sammiejoe are getting at by dissecting or rejecting my review and criticizing Megan Boyle’s entire collection, though you haven’t read it and I’m not sure Sammiejoe has either because you haven’t read the entire collection and been able to see whatever arc there is, how do you consider it appropriate to pass judgment? The book was the bestselling book of poetry at Small Press Distribution for December. Even I myself should likely not be passing judgment, or critiquing, being 16 and all and therefore incapable of having my own ideas to share.

            I wrote this review a few months ago and, reading it now, there are many changes I would make. I was not as in-depth as I could have been. In 10 years, I will be 26, and I’m sure a reader such as yourself will still find something to dislike to use to make me appear inferior. I am well aware that the purpose of websites and forums like The Nervous Breakdown is to have a conversation, which is one reason I’ve wanted to become so involved. And I’m trying to be mature in this situation, but I can feel my patience slipping. Frankly, if you don’t like Megan Boyle’s poetry, don’t read it. If you don’t like my review, leave the page. And again, because you haven’t read Megan’s collection, how can you justify excoriating or exposing her? How could you justify excoriating and exposing her at all? It is not your place. I apologize if this comes off as aggressive or confrontational; it is not my intention. I’m just trying to contribute to the “conversation,” so I may one day have a chance of being taken seriously.

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