Monday, May 21, 2012

The Day the World Ends

By Ethan Coen
Broadway Paperbacks, 121 pgs
Submitted by Random House
Rating: 2

The Day the World Ends (Poems) is a thin (literally and figuratively) collection of poetry brought to us by Ethan Coen, celebrated writer of screenplays for movies such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona. What most of us don't know is that Mr. Coen has also published volumes of short stories and poems such as Gates of Eden: Stories and The Drunken Driver Has the Right of Way: Poems.

I have been a fan of Ethan Coen's films for years and I wish I could say that I had enjoyed his poetry. I wish I could say that he has broken new ground or made a contribution to the art form or was at the very least reaching for something, even something intangible. But alas, what we got is mediocre at best. I suspect that Mr. Coen's name gets him published when lesser mortals would not be. The Day the World Ends (Poems) has very little to offer. The huge majority of the pieces in this book are scatological, concerned with buttocks, genitalia, various and sundry sex acts and feces. There are pages and pages of limericks that might have been written by a 13-year-old boy, crass and profane.

BUT it wasn't all bad. I'd like to single out a couple of poems for further consideration. On Seeing Venice for the First Time is a spare, fitting tribute to the author's first visit to the city. He is almost speechless and it made me smile to think of him there, a sophisticated artist done in by the romance of Venice. To the English Language bows to the power of words, the power of naming and the comfort taken from knowing that someone else has felt the same as you feel and wrote it down and survived. This poem is a throw-away but has my favorite title: When My Marbles Have Left Me Will You Have?

So, I cannot recommend The Day the World Ends (Poems). Mr. Coen's short stories have garnered better reviews so you may want to try those. In the meantime, make some popcorn and turn on Netflix.
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