Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010
Review by Collin Schuster
"In the beginning everyone looked like Larry Bird
but everyone did not have the name Larry Bird
this was confusing."
The earth was formless and empty. A new Yahweh showed up and he was dressed in shorts and a basketball jersey. It was Mathias Svalina, poet, raconteur, and trickster. He created a new book, Destruction Myth, and its worlds were made out of streets, jokes, schools, the smell of bacon, pig corpses, duels, vulnerable folks like you and me, mothers and fathers, desire, thrashing metal bands, and curious furry animals posing the stickier points of coexistence—just to name a few.
We know that myths explain why the world looks the way it does, how it was created and destroyed, and eventually how its forms change. But lucky for us, when you have a series of myths that doubly act as poems, like in this collection, you have the added bonus of being totally surprised by the humorous, heartfelt, and unpredictability of myths actively spinning out from the loosened rivets of imagination as opposed to being strictly inherited from a culturally hieratic text.
Destruction Myth is an exciting book of storytelling. In fact, it has been determined by a super-majority of health care experts that Mathias Svalina writes mythological poems in the way that Lebron James would write mythological poems if the poems were indeed actually baskets, which is to say, a kind of three points at the buzzer awesomeness. And speaking of Svalina and the influence of basketball on his poetry, I can honestly say that there is no other poet who so magically opens up a book of poems by invoking the legendary power forward from the Boston Celtics, "the Hick from French Lick," Larry Bird.
After reading this book of poems, I actually reached a point where I thought Svalina was indeed the avatar of Marco Polo, not in the James Cameron sense, but more in the spirit of Italo Calvino. Moreover, there were words from the "The Marco Polo Zone" that came to me à la Philip Lamantia because it seems to me that Svalina's poems also serve up that well-decanted concoction that "tosses the metallic labyrinth," that "scheme(s) to saunter the avian anarchia," and, like a reliable bartender, sets our coaster with that "crystal drop of lingual bliss."
Reading this book is like following a kind of Voyager-like probe outward into the interstellar medium. Or, perhaps it is like following a kind of Fearless Felix jumping from a balloon located somewhere in the stratosphere, and, while breaking the speed of sound and piling on twenty-three miles of drop, what ensues is the thrilling five and a half minute joy ride that we anticipated.
Destruction Myth is a book full of curiosity and liveliness. The poems therein read like radiant streams of meteoroids flying above the deck of a hidden observatory, and there is the wondering, always the wondering. This is the kind of poetry that reminds us that the world is processional, and that it gives us a ground to stand on even when the ground floats or becomes uncertain or when destruction is just around the corner. These poems feel like they come to us from a floating world, a world which the author deftly and inimitably navigates into the unknown, and into the quotidian, and we delight to go there with him. He dismantles a world, and then builds us a bridge.
© Collin Schuster, 2010