Review: selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee by Megan Boyle

19 April 2013 by 10 Comments

Book: selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee 

Author: Megan Boyle

Published: November 2011 by Muumuu House, 96 pages

First Line: “i could never be a sports writer, unless my assignment was to write ‘sports sports sports sports sports’ for three pages”

Genre/Rating: Poetry; 4/5 lists of your most embarrassing moments in life, dating back to age 5

Review: Confession: I don’t know how best to review this book.

For all of my love of poetry, I’m somewhat of a traditionalist. I like free verse (and it’s the form I use); I also can admire (and lust after, because I’m just not at all good at it) a well-rhymed poem with a more rigid structure.

I’m sure there’s a categorization for Boyle’s work. I’m sure someone’s come up with a name for it. I haven’t been able to find one online. Maybe this type of poetry is old hat, and therefore everyone assumes it doesn’t need to be categorized? Maybe they think there’s no need to categorize it? Maybe I’m just strange for my desire to put a name on it?

It’s part confessional blog post; it’s part prose poem; it’s part list poem; it’s part letter to a friend; it’s part text message; it’s part Tweet. I don’t know how else to describe it. She writes using all lower-case letters, very little punctuation, and very few of the poems have titles, other than a date. Is it experimental? I’d say yes, but only because I’ve personally never seen anything like it. Like I said, maybe this is happening all over and I just haven’t seen it before. I’ll be the first to admit that new volumes of poetry aren’t easy to find at my library.

It’s poetry for the digital age. It’s got the confessional feel of Sexton, but with a 21st century twist. It’s got a very off-the-cuff way about it; it’s a blog, broken into line breaks and stanzas. It’s equal parts funny, relatable, and heartbreaking. The narrator – whether it’s the author, or an unnamed narrator, it’s never specified – is very much a woman of our age: in her late twenties, dealing with technology, romance, food issues, media, family, friends, pets, work, school. It’s poetry for a generation that feels alienated from poetry. I love it for that; I love it for opening up poetry for an age that might consider poetry to not be “for” them – to hold no interest for them, to be something for an older age, maybe.

Personally, I find Boyle’s poems most successful, for me, with her list poems – her “unpublished tweets” (such as “seems…hard…to care about anything…lol…” – who on Twitter doesn’t at least have a mental list of these?); her “everyone i’ve had sex with,” detailing each and every person she’s been with since she started being sexually active; her “embarrassing moments,” listing her most embarrassing moments in life, from age 5 to now – my favorite line? the last: “email from my dad saying he’s read ‘everyone i’ve had sex with’ (age 23)” – and her “lies i have told,” both listing the lies she’s told and seeming to try, in a roundabout way, to analyze why she might have told them.

When Sexton and Plath and the like started writing their confessional poetry, the critics were horrified. Women shouldn’t be talking in such a frank way about their lives, sex, their failures, their (gasp!) emotions. This book is the child of the confessional poetry movement; confessional poetry for those with a short attention span, for those who get their literature in short bursts of light from a computer screen. “most of my time on the internet is spent refreshing the same pages repeatedly,” Boyle writes. “i wonder if they’re going to tell ghost stories about social networking sites someday”. They get graphic, sometimes, sexual, personal – but we’re the babies of the internet age, we’re used to that. Aren’t we?

The only criticism I have – and it’s minor, and it’s personal – is that the book begins to feel a bit repetitive, after a while. But that may be on purpose, and a conscious choice the author made. It’s a very stream-of-consciousness style of writing, and our minds can be a repetitive place, as anyone who’s been stuck in a rut can attest.

I don’t know if this is the future of poetry, or just the direction Boyle herself has taken, but either way, it was an interesting format, and I look forward to reading more by the author. Poetry’s constant ability to change with the times makes me happy. It’s how I know it’s going to survive long after I’m gone.

10 thoughts on “Review: selected unpublished blog posts of a mexican panda express employee by Megan Boyle

  1. This book is definitely on my wish list. I think it took courage for Megan Boyle to list all the men she’s been with and all the lies she’s ever told. There aren’t many artists these days who will bear their souls and reveal who they truly are. Usually, artists are discouraged from saying anything controversial least someone become “offended” and start a campaign to shut them up. So bravo to Megan for standing out!

    • She’s really very cool. I’ve read her blog and follow her on Twitter and she’s very much an individual and very creative and funny. I like how her brain works.

    • It really was. It was different than anything I’d read before, and at first I wasn’t sure of it, but I really got caught up in it.

  2. This sounds really really intriguing. As a twenty-something, I’m just starting to get into books about that time (like How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti, which is amazing). I’ve never been into poetry, but I’m definitely going to try this out.

    • If you’re not into poetry, I think this might be a good book for you to try – it’s very different than any other poetry books I’ve read, but still has the feel of poetry, if that makes any sense. It’s very interesting!

    • I hadn’t heard of it until Susie mentioned it, and then in a cruel twist of fate, my library had it and hers didn’t! (My library has NO indie books, so it was quite shocking!)

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