I know better to conflate the poet and the poem, the writer and his creations, but I want to believe that the “I” of the poetry collected in Will Nixon’s Love in the City of Grudges is, indeed, the poet, for his “I” is honest and forthright about a time in his life that was, in retrospect, magical but which appeared, in the heat of the long summer moment, to be the deadest of ends. I could be friends with that “I,” in that time and place.
The collection is about being young and poor and in love and wanting to be a writer and not knowing what to say because you don’t yet realize that all that lies before you is plenty to say. It’s about promise. It’s about potential. It’s about living in Hoboken and naming your cats Sid and Nancy because you wish you were more of a punk. It’s about dreams. It’s about fitting in. It’s about cockroaches and survival. And, towards the end, it’s about zombies.
Throughout the volume, Nixon dazzles with his attention to detail, bringing the worlds of his squandered youth to life with images as precise as they are telling: the hapless brother who “unscrews Oreos for the cream,” the unfinished copy of Gravity’s Rainbow (“All summer, I couldn’t get past his octopus/with Pavlovian training”), the rubber masks of Nixon and Reagan, the Hefty bag of laundry, the chocolate syrup masquerading as blood in Night of the Living Dead.
All told, it’s a strong and moving collection that bespeaks the myriad ways in which the past and the present, not to mention the living and the dead, are always closer to each other than we might care to admit.
-Review by Marc Schuster