Book+Review%3a+Gina+Myers%27s+A+Model+Year


A Model Year
Poems by Gina Myers
Coconut Books, 2009

"A map of shipwrecks & desire"

Gina Myers's A Model Year is filled with sadness and humor, resignation and resistance. These are unsentimental poems about transition and loss, delivered in a voice that's confident, self-conscious, and supple. Roving from New York City to Saginaw, Myers handles the public and the private with equal adeptness.

The book is divided into four sections, the first three of which all end with poems titled "A Partial List of Fears." Among other phobias, we find "Fear of asymmetry," "Fear of Hegel," "Fear of myths, stories or false statements," "Fear or abnormal dislike of politicians," and "Fear of symmetry." Typical of Myers's work, these lists are both funny and hauntingly melancholy at the same time. In addition, each list can seem to comment upon the themes of other poems in its section, lending a layer of self-aware irony to the collection.

The remainder of A Model Year is ambitious, diverse, and consistently engaging. Part one is called "Young Professionals in the Rain" and takes place in New York City (where Myers earned her MFA at the New School), here portrayed as a place of "Pigeons & sky washed- / out grey," of "frenzied youth smashing / up against one another." Rich in vivid narrative details, such poems as "Midwinter" and "Apartment 11" chronicle the inner lives of tenement-dwelling office drones.

Part two, "Notes & Letters," contains mostly first-person verses addressed to various listeners, some named, some not. Several pieces in this section have a sardonic edge, like "I’m not even trying," which simply consists of a series of flippant excuses for not keeping in touch with someone. On the other hand, the long and elegiac "Travel Notes" deals with the speaker's reactions to the death of her grandfather. Myers writes, "I don’t know why / I feel so strongly the need to document this moment, as if I / don't write it down, it never happened." I think many writers have experienced that compulsion to record. The lines are typical of the casual, almost tossed-off yet deeply truthful observations that Myers dispenses throughout A Model Year.

In part three, "Homecoming," the poet shifts gears again. Rather than reportage, this section features imagistic, evocative lyrics often of ominous import. "Forecast," for example, is a gnomic prophecy ("The land will turn to ash. Food: ash. / Speech will be whispered. Words: ash in our mouths."). Similarly, "Drought" declares, "Even the sun / is poisonous." Even at their most seemingly impersonal, however, these poems continue to insist on the primacy of the subjective. In "January" Myers writes, "I wanted you to know this is a specific 'I' addressing a specific 'you.'" The very title of "Self-Portrait as a Mirror" suggests what Myers is trying to do throughout this section.

Part four consists entirely of the meditative title poem, wherein Myers weaves together diverse threads from earlier in the book to form a complex tapestry of quotidian ritual and restlessness: "…Things are easier / when there’s a code of behavior. Waiting

for Saturday to pass into Sunday & Sunday
into the work week so one knows what to do

with their time. Language neither the problem
nor the cure, just something to occupy myself with.

No one taught me the softness of the quilt
against my cheek. It was something I could only

learn myself….

It's a wonderful piece, and it ends the book on a strong note. Not many young writers can pull off a long poem that doesn't sag and bloat; the fact that Myers has done it so effortlessly here speaks volumes about her skill, taste, and craft. I expect to read more exciting work by her in the future.

© Matthew Falk, 2009