October 30, 2011
One of the first poems in Megan Boyle’s debut collection selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee is called “everyone i’ve had sex with.”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.