We Are All Just An­i­mals & Plants

Broken Pencil - - Zine Reviews -

Chap­book, Alex Man­ley, 62 pgs, Me­ta­tron, on­meta­tron.com, $12

This de­but col­lec­tion of po­ems adds to Me­ta­tron’s grow­ing list of well-de­signed lit­tle chap­books, but does not com­mand the same level of rec­om­men­da­tion as did ones from the re­cent past. Alex Man­ley’s verse is per­sonal, per­son­able, and light­hearted when it needs to be, but of­ten dwells in self-con­tem­pla­tion. Put sim­ply, We Are All Just An­i­mals & Plants too of­ten gets stuck in a mud of its own mak­ing.

The book is short enough to be read in a sin­gle sit­ting, and di­vided into three parts: “A—an­i­mals,” “&—As­sorted Para­pher­na­lia,” and “P—plants,” with lit­tle to no dis­cern­able struc­tural or the­matic dif­fer­ences be­tween them. The speaker — a Mon­treal youth — laments his “Schrödinger’s Cat re­la­tion­ship” with a girl who plainly isn’t as in­ter­ested in him as he is in her.

The premise is well-trod­den, but for good rea­son: Man­ley’s speaker’s po­si­tion is sym­pa­thetic and evoca­tive, and al­lows him some touch­ing scenes, one such be­ing the cen­tral poem “Cam­era.” Tak­ing place in a dark­ened green­house, the pro­tag­o­nist and his belle “sit down at the wrought-iron ta­ble and | make hearts with [their] hands. … Pass­ing some pur­ple | flow­ers, [she] won­der[s] aloud whether they might be | car­niv­o­rous. On our way out [he] see[s] some­thing — a | rac­coon, a lit­tle shadow scur­ry­ing from the room, | then it’s gone.” Spaced and margined, the mo­ment is sim­ple and un­ob­struc­tive — Man­ley at his best. But too much of An­i­mals and Plants’s emo­tion is thrown into the now-lost ret­ro­spect. Too of­ten does this speaker “come into work a lit­tle bit | later ev­ery day, [his] beard a lit­tle longer … Face­book stalk [his] old ther­a­pist | in the jun­gle of [his] browser tabs, and think | dis­in­ter­est­edly about [his] men­tal health”. The tone is un­be­com­ing when pep­pered be­tween beau­ti­ful mo­ments,

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