Old Men, Girls, and Monsters

Old Men, Girls, and Monsters by Peter Schwartz is the latest title in Dogzplot’s Achilles chapbook series. As with other Achilles chapbooks like Everyone in This is Either Dying or Will Die or is Thinking of Death, the outlook of Old Men, Girls, and Monsters is somewhat grim yet also moving. The monsters named in the title of this slim volume are humans — or, at the very least, what humans become when we let our demons get the better of us. Throughout the proceedings, Schwartz presents a host of lonely, psychologically damaged characters, all of whom seek comfort in the company of others yet, tragically, lack the capacity to connect in a meaningful way. Such “survival artists,” as the poet refers to them in a piece titled “artificial light,” have no choice but to live as a curious hybrid of “matadors” and “androids” because if life has taught them anything, it’s that they must guard the “faulty valve” in their hearts that makes them vulnerable. Human beings are, by nature, sad creatures, Schwartz seems to insist throughout this volume, yet he is equally insistent (though subtly so) that we are also hopeful: though we may never fully connect, at least we can find solidarity in our isolation. Or, perhaps more accurately, it’s the ongoing struggle to connect (and repeated failure to do so) that unites us all, and is, arguably, what motivates poets like Schwartz to keep doing what they do — forever attempt to forge better tools for communication from the imperfect contrivance that is language.

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