During My Nervous Breakdown I Want to Have a Biographer Present, Brandon Scott Gorrell, Muumuu House
In an interview with Plan B Magazine, Brandon Scott Gorrell said, “I do not like reading ‘long-winded’ prose/poetry.” That explains why During My Nervous Breakdown… is stripped down and seemingly bare. He also indicated though that Muumuu House has a type of style: “clipped, declarative sentences, often containing a single clause.”
While this can be seen in both the poetry of Tao Lin (founder of Muumuu House) and Ellen Kennedy (whose debut book of poetry was published by Muumuu), this is not the whole story. In Gorrell’s book there are three poems with some form of “alienation” in the title. There are poems with titles including the words “apocalypse,” “destructive,” “horror,” and “terror.” Are things really as bad as all of that in these poems?
The fraying of nerves is the kind of terror Gorrell explores here. According to the back cover, we are the same age, and I would say that I have experienced some of the emotions outlined throughout the book. For example, the first three lines of “you are a goldfish and I am alienated”:
i was nervous about going out with you
so i sat around cultivating internet relationships
while you participated in physical reality in a different way
What awkward twenty-something hasn’t had this feeling? In the poem “gmail,” the Internet takes on another role: “i have gotten adrenaline rushed from situations like finding eight new emails.” For the “I” of Gorrell’s poems, likely the same “I” throughout the book, the Internet is a blessing and a curse.
The other theme running throughout the book is one of wandering. The “I” of Gorrell’s poems is seemingly lost in the world and has only himself/herself to rely on. The first poem of the collection, “potential poem titles,” makes clear the feelings of the speaker. These are the first five lines/stanzas:
look how far away my face is
i feel bad
i’m going to take a bath in 13 gallons of warm coffee
‘tired of life’
i want to murder everyone on the planet with pillows and
then lay down on my bed
I think it is safe to say that Lin has created/founded a new aesthetic in poetry. One blogger referred to it as the “Internet School of Poetry,” but that does not seem to quite fit. Sure, these poems are composed on the computer, but that is not adequate to describe what is happening. “Brutal Honesty” seems too harsh. “The Whatever School of Poetry” might be a more accurate fit, because Lin, Kennedy, and Gorrell, seem not to put too much stock in their poetry. That’s not to say they don’t care, but their poems are what they are––no more, no less. There doesn’t seem to be any “hidden meaning” behind the work of these poets. It is attractive on many levels: it speaks in the language of twenty-somethings, it doesn’t require any knowledge of form or craft really, it just asks that the poet be honest and direct.
That being said, During My Nervous Breakdown… has an appeal to a younger crowd, a group of people who adamantly believe in truth-telling in their poetry that doesn’t have to be dressed up in elaborate metaphors or words that require a dictionary to look up. It won’t appeal to everyone, but I think, as Gorrell wished, it will help him reach his target audience and “increase sales.”
Nathan Logan is a MFA candidate at Minnesota State University Moorhead and the editor of the online poetry magazine Spooky Boyfriend. He is the author of the chapbook Holly from Muncie (Spooky Girlfriend Press, 2008) and the e-book Dick (PANGUR BAN PARTY, 2009).