THE DRUNK SONNETS, Daniel Bailey (Magic Helicopter Press) $10
I’ve intoxicated myself twice with the intention of reviewing Daniel Bailey’s The Drunk Sonnets, and though by temperament a fairly productive drunk neither of my reviews have exceeded two sentences. That, to me, proves the accomplishment of Bailey’s all-caps sonnets, which transcend the gimmick of their genesis to achieve a sort of beauty that aches with simple honesty. Their raw transitions—perhaps better thought of as drunken stumbles—between reflection and exasperation, between near-ecclesiastical proclamations and staccato outbursts of frustration or despair, set the emotional tenor of the collection, as in “Drunk Sonnet 26”:
I HAVE NOTHING REALLY INSIDE ME TO GIVE
IT’S ALL AN EMPTY ROOM WITH GREY CARPET
I REMEMBER DONATING TOYS AT THE FIRE DEPT.
WHEN I WAS A KID AND I WANTED THOSE TOYS
BEING A KID WAS THE MOST RETARDED SHIT EVER
BECAUSE KIDS TURN INTO ADULTS AND THAT SHIT’S WHACK
I FALL OVER DRUNK MORE THAN EVER NOW THAT I’M AN ADULT
I WANT MY FACE KICKED IN MORE THAN EVER NOW
The poems occasionally dip into bathos, but without any pretension to the contrary; a fault easily outweighed by the brilliance that Bailey’s looseness of expression—the drunken let-down-of-guard that roots these poems—allows. The use of the loose sonnet structure exemplifies the freedom form allows when used well. The entire collection is available online, where it was first published sequentially on Bailey’s blog, though Magic Helicopter’s petite edition grants the collection a pleasant physicality.
The thirteen line “Drunk Sonnet 52” begins with one of my favorite strophes in the collection, a drunken let’s followed by descriptive imagery that reminds me of Albert Goldbarth:
LET’S PLANT BUSHES IN OUR CHESTS
AND LET THEM EXPAND SOME UNTIL WE ARE HAPPY AGAIN
I THINK THE ONLY THING TO MAKE US HAPPY
WOULD BE SENDING OUR EMOTIONS VIA SATELLITE
TO SOME SMALL PLANET WITH ONLY MOLD FOR LIFE
Vlad Osso earned a PhD in Russian Phonology from the University of St. Petersburg, using the seminal texts of the Oberiu to analyze the structure of Russian-language syllables. He currently teaches avant-garde literature of Central Asia and advanced phonology at several universities in greater Moscow.